Come July, we’ll miss the roar of the U.S. Thunderbirds over Gary’s Marquette Park and the daring jumps of the U.S. Army Golden Knights. The Gary Air Show, a staple at the lakefront park since 2000, was grounded this year because the city couldn’t afford its hefty $350,000 price tag.
That’s a shame. The air show has become an annual two-day extravaganza showcasing the city’s beautiful beaches along Lake Michigan and the Gary/Chicago International Airport where the show’s staging takes place.
Beach-loving and sun-soaked crowds have been estimated at 100,000 and more. They come from all over Northwest Indiana and beyond. Motorists navigate down Miller’s narrow streets and they spend money at its bars and restaurants. And they learn Gary is more than just urban blight and crime. While the show drew a big audience, it couldn’t find a way to convert it to cash.
Speros Batistatos, president and CEO of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, understood why Gary had to cancel this year’s show. The South Shore CVA produced the air show for nine years until 2015. Batistatos estimated it lost about $1.4 million during that time.
The large swaths of open space along the lakeshore make charging admission difficult. If you have friends who live near the lake, it’s easy to just park at their place and walk down to the beach and party. “At the end of the day, it is just too high (an expense) for too low a return,” said Batistatos.
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said she had no choice earlier this month but to cancel the show planned for July 8-9 when it became clear the city…
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