Arctic Thunder air show breaks previous attendance record
This year's Arctic Thunder 2018 air show at JBER boasted itself as bigger and better than the show before and it certainly did not disappoint.
"We were hoping it'd be even bigger than it was in 2016," Col. Chris Niemi said. "At that time, it was our biggest show to do."
In 2016, it was estimated that over 150,000 came to the air show on Saturday and Sunday, bringing the overall total to somewhere over a total attendance of 300,000.
"This year we're estimated at 160,000 people each day," Major Jeri Lynn Harper said. "So those numbers are higher than we've ever had before."
The Arctic Thunder air show featured over 90 food vendors, three hangars full of speakers, activities and demonstrations -- but most importantly, the air show featured more unique acts than ever before.
"What we have is kind of unheard of," Harper said. "Normally, there would be one or two military demo teams. We actually have the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and four other demo teams. We have the F-22 Raptor, the C-17 demo team, the marine corps Harrier and the F-16 demo. It's a really big show and we are really blessed to have it."
Harper says it took her almost two years of planning but she says it's all worth it.
"You really can't train up for this," Harper said. "Patience is something you learn in the military and that's what you have to have here. It's well worth it because when else can you see so many incredible things."
That's exactly what Stacy and Michael Sawyer were hoping for. The couple from Wasilla brought the whole family to the event early. For Stacy and Michael, they've been to an airshow before and still have fond memories of it. They felt this was the year to introduce their kids to the event for the very first time.
"I want them to see the planes and what it takes to fly them," Stacy said. "Just everything, what it takes to operate and maintain them and just get a taste of it. Maybe it's a career path they'd like to choose. We homeschool so any chance we have to learn something, we take it."
For Stacy, this is her second air show and she still has vivid memories of her first.
"The barrel rolls, the angels," Stacy said. "I mean it was all smoke it and it was a blast."
Stacy's husband Michael was also all about the learning aspect for the kids but he was also intrigued himself with how the event operates.
"The last time we came, they had the World War II demonstration with the zeros and everything, that was spectacular," Michael said. "I really enjoy seeing how much effort it takes to put this on. It's a way to show their support for what goes into it so it's nice to come out here and support all the men and women and work out here."
Arctic Thunder is an air show intended to show the public the training and skills involved on the military base. It's also intended as a recruiting tool to drum up interest in young people and possibly get them as future recruits.
The next Arctic Thunder air show is scheduled for the 2020 and is expected to feature the Blue Angels.
The Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds rotate shows, the Thunderbirds were last in Anchorage in 2016, their next visit will be in 2022.
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