DULUTH – The Blue Angels precision flying team is back in town to headline this year's Duluth Airshow, and tens of thousands of attendees are expected to attend over the weekend.
The two-day event returns to the Duluth International Airport and Twin Ports skies after missing last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "The Duluth Airshow provides us with an opportunity to showcase some of the most talented pilots and educate our region and youth on aviation," said airshow President Ryan Kern.
The event draws about 50,000 spectators over the weekend from across the Midwest, Kern said. the 2019 show drew 65,000 over two days.
The U.S. Navy's Blue Angels will fly their new, faster, louder F/A-18 Super Hornets to highlight the precision and endurance of some of the world's top pilots.
"Going out and interacting with the crowd, now that COVID has started to subside a little bit — that crowd interaction is what it's all about," said Bobby Baldock, a spokesman for the Blue Angels. "We love traveling, thrilling people and seeing the kids light up and enjoying the show."
The airshow is a chance to educate attendees on aviation and draw more folks into the industry, organizers said.
Katie Lassi, an instructor with the aviation-focused STARBASE Minnesota in Duluth, was awarded this year's "key influencer flight" with the Blue Angels this week to highlight the show's mission of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.
"What an amazing way for me to relate STEM to what students will be learning about at STARBASE," Lassi said in a statement. "It is so impactful for students to hear stories and personal experiences while learning about abstract science concepts like Newton's laws of motion or changes to body physiology due to differing levels of gravity."
STARBASE educates thousands of school-age children every year through camps and outreach.
Minnesota Wild defenseman Ian Cole also got a ride with the Blue Angels on Wednesday to highlight his work with the United Heroes League charity that benefits military members and their families.
The Blue Angels, founded in 1946 to promote naval aviation, were last in Duluth for the 2019 airshow.
"It's good to be back," Baldock said.
Other performers at this weekend's show include the U.S. Air Force F-22, U.S. Air Force C-17, Kirby Chambliss, Red Bull Helicopter and the Red Bull Air Force, B-25 Miss Mitchell, Smoke-N-Thunder Jet Car along with on-the-ground displays at the Duluth International Airport.
Several crew members of the USS Minneapolis-St. Paul, which will be commissioned in Duluth at a future date, will also be at the show Saturday and Sunday. The Navy League Minnesota Council will host a meet-and-greet at Bent Paddle Brewing on Saturday evening as well.
The Duluth Airshow comes on the heels of Grandma's Marathon, which kicked off a more traditional tourism season after the pandemic made for a quiet summer last year.
"It is so great to see things beginning to return to normal," said Anna Tanski, CEO of Visit Duluth. "It is a rocking weekend, there is no question, and it's a pace that certainly we have missed. It has just been an incredible return to near pre-COVID levels."
Those looking for a last-minute hotel are either out of luck or looking at $300 or more for a night as of Thursday afternoon. Airshow organizers say the event brings in about $10 million in economic benefit to the region, and the majority of attendees come from outside the area.
The Duluth Air and Aviation Expo runs Saturday and Sunday with gates opening at 9 a.m. and closing at 6 p.m. each day. Tickets are $25 for adults and $12 for those 16 and younger.
Brooks Johnson • 218-491-6496