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Paulding air show seeks to break from airport authority after two years
by Tom Spigolon
November 26, 2013 12:59 PM | 1096 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Staff / Tom Spigolon<br>From left, air show director Brent Sparks gives a report as, from left, Paulding County Airport Authority assistant Junie Walton, attorney Tom Cable and authority members Blake Swafford and Carolyn Wright listen last week.
Staff / Tom Spigolon
From left, air show director Brent Sparks gives a report as, from left, Paulding County Airport Authority assistant Junie Walton, attorney Tom Cable and authority members Blake Swafford and Carolyn Wright listen last week.
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Staff Photo<br>A performer leaves a circle of smoke during the Salute America 2013 Air Show Oct. 6.
Staff Photo
A performer leaves a circle of smoke during the Salute America 2013 Air Show Oct. 6.
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The second annual Salute America Air Show last month earned a slight profit and entertained more than three times the attendees of the prior year, its director said last week.

Before its third year, however, this bird hopes to leave the nest.

Brent Sparks said an estimated 12,000 to 18,000 people filled Silver Comet Field airport near Dallas to watch the wide variety of acts for the second annual show. Sponsorships totaled $325,000, and the various performers and attendees spent $20,000 in area hotels and motels, Sparks said.

He noted the show cleared $2,000 after expenses. However, the Paulding County Airport Authority originated the show and controls it. Ultimately, the taxpayer would have seen a loss if the event lost money – which is why the show is seeking to become a nonprofit entity, he said.

“That’s why the industry standard is to move [an air show] into its own entity and establish it with its own set of bylaws and its own set of rules in its own corporation,” Sparks said. “That releases the taxpayers of Paulding County … from liability and they still get all the benefits of having an air show in their community.”

The show’s reputation is growing among air show performers nationwide because it was well organized for performers and attendees, Sparks said. For example, performers were able to get fuel and access the runway easily, he said. Traffic – even at its nighttime performance Oct. 5 – was able to easily depart because roads were well-lit and traffic flow kept orderly by sheriff’s deputies, he said.

“We have a product people are focused on if we decide to do this again,” Sparks said.

The show’s organizers and advisors include former members of the military who are experts at safely organizing large-scale events, he said.

“They’re our experts. They’ll decide what they’re going to do and how they’ll do it and we’ll just execute,” he said.

The wide range of crowd estimates was given because those under age 12 were admitted free to the Oct. 5 and 6 event, Sparks said. And getting young people interested in aerospace careers was the most important thing the show accomplished, he said.

“Children focusing on careers [in aerospace] is part of what we’re trying to do,” he told members of the airport authority last week.

Authority member David Austin said sponsors included Lockheed Martin, which committed funds because of the emphasis on aerospace education.

Sparks said air show organizers worked to give airplane rides to at least one student from each of Paulding County’s 34 schools. The rides are still being offered, he said.

“A lot of those kids had never seen an airplane before, much less seen a fighter jet,” he said.

“Just putting on an air show just for the sake of putting on an air show is not a reasonable decision,” Sparks said. “It’s difficult, it’s dangerous, it’s expensive, and it requires a level of intensity and effort from the volunteers that is essentially unprecedented.

“We have that [volunteer] team, but it’s not a simple thing to do,” he said. “In the absence of a clear and well-defined purpose, it is nearly impossible to do.”

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