After a hellish winter that buried Long Island in a deluge of snow and brought record-breaking bone-chilling temperatures, this may very well be the most anticipated Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach in recent memory.
On Friday, local officials gathered under a picturesque sky to ring in Memorial Day Weekend—the unofficial start to summer—and the iconic air show, which welcomes aerial teams from across the nation that will perform mind-boggling maneuvers for revelers on the beach.
This will be the 12th such air show at Jones Beach, one that has become “the family tradition of Long Island,” said Wayne Grosse, president and CEO of Bethpage Federal Credit Union, the nonprofit institution that sponsors the show.
The weekend show is expected to draw upwards of 200,000 people on both Saturday and Sunday given the generous weather forecast, officials said. Forecasters are predicting sunny skies Saturday and Sunday with temperatures in the mid-60s and low-70s, respectively. Both shows run 12-5 p.m.
Those hoping to attend the event are advised to arrive early.
The show will include acrobatic performances from the acclaimed U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, this year’s headliners, the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team, legendary pilot Sean D. Tucker, the Air National Guard, GEICO Skytypers and other demonstration teams. Making its debut all the way from Europe is the Breitling Jet Team, officials announced.
Jim Record, 67, of the GEICO Skytapers, said his Long Island-based squad performs 14 shows annually but said this is one of his favorites.
“It’s our homecoming air show,” he said, beaming with pride.
The Skytypers will fly six World War II-era North American SNJ-2 fighter planes, of which there are only 12 remaining in the world. The Skytypers fly the aircraft in honor of the “greatest generation,” Record said.
The Thunderbirds will soar over Long Island in F-16s. Lucas Buckley, the squad’s representative, called it an “honor to be here” and to connect the public with its military.
Hundreds appeared eager to get a jump on the weekend festivities. Groups of people parked picnic chairs on the boardwalk and on the beach, looking forward to watch the aerial teams practice their mind-blowing stunts. Men and women alike shed everyday attire for bathing suits, despite a noticeable breeze.
Others browsed tents selling Thunderbirds shirts, souvenirs and air show toys, while some adults chose to soak in the sun with a cold beer.
Jones Beach has recently gone through reconstruction during the off-season. New bathrooms in Field 6 will be ready for the huge crowds and the central mall’s mosaic was refurbished for the first time in three decades. Food service will also be available at Field 6 this weekend, and a more expansive menu should be unveiled later in the summer.
As he documented the revitalization at Jones Beach, Wayne Horsley, regional director of New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, said: “There’s nothing like it.”