Originally created 05/12/00

Profits will fund event



The Augusta Aviation Commission has begun planning for Skyfest 2001, and this time the group promises to organize better and enlist more help.

Board member Joe Scott suggested the commission, in conjunction with the mayor's office, begin making plans for Skyfest 2001 as soon as possible.

Mr. Scott said it's important the airport gets as much help as it can for Skyfest 2001.

"If we learn from the mistakes we made last year, (and we start now) we'll be ahead of the game," Mr. Scott said.

Organizers this year had just 90 days to plan for Skyfest 2000.

While most communities have 12 to 18 months to prepare, Augusta learned in January the only time the Navy's Blue Angels could come to Bush Field was April 1 and 2.

The aviation commission decided having the Blue Angels then was better than not having them at all, and, despite the short time frame, went ahead with plans for Augusta's first jet air show.

Although the event was considered a success, airport officials were criticized for the massive traffic jams caused by a lack of planning and organization.

Hundreds of tickets had to be refunded to people who couldn't get to the show because of traffic. Those who did get to the show had to wait as long as four hours to leave because of a second traffic jam on the event's first day.

Still, Skyfest 2000 was a financial success. Interim Airport Director Tim Weegar said the airport made $100,000 in profits.

Commission member Jimmy Drews said the profits should be used to fund next year's Skyfest. "Hey, next year, you may get rained out; that's what happens in the festival business," Mr. Drews said. "If we use that money to perpetuate the Skyfest event, we'd be self-insured."

The board agreed.

Mr. Weegar said he has had informal, preliminary discussions with Mayor Bob Young about marketing and strategy for Skyfest 2001.

"If we're going to do this again, we've gotta have some help, big time help," Mr. Weegar said. "It is a big chore."

Commission Chairman Ed Skinner said he has heard that the Blue Angels have agreed to come back to Augusta. "When they say they're coming back, you have to take it," he said.

A date for Skyfest 2001 has not been set, but officials hope to have it in the spring, at least 30 days before or after the Master's Tournament.

Reach Justin Martin at (706) 823-3552.