By Ryan Lengerich
The Thunderbirds won’t fly — and that’s no big deal.
The 11th annual Tucumcari Rotary Club Air show will go on as planned and organizer Bob McClelland Jr. expects an excellent show despite its original main attraction, the Air Force Thunderbirds, canceling their flight eight days before the event.
“We have such a good lineup,” McClelland said. “The quality is as good as anywhere in the nation.”
The gates open at 10 a.m. and the planes fly from noon – 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Tucumcari Municipal Airport. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children 12-years-old and younger and can be purchased in advance or at the gate.
For the first time in Tucumcari a night performance will be held Tuesday evening around 7:30 p.m. at the Tucumcari Convention Center. The event will feature three of Wednesday’s performers and last about 30 minutes.
The Thunderbirds will send two jets along with about seven team members for a static display. The headliners were officially grounded for the show after a jet crashed at a Sept. 14 event in Idaho.
McClelland said scoring the Thunderbirds has attracted better vendors and better food. Attractions such as a flight simulator will make for an overall better atmosphere.
In addition to flying acts, McClelland expects as many as 40 planes to be on display during the day.
He said the show has grown immensely since the innaguaral in 1992, when crop-dusters were awed over by the crowd. Since the audience has come to expect more with each passing year.
“That first year we had people lined out to the freeway because this town had just been starving for something they hadn’t had in a long time,” he said.
McClelland attributes the shows growth and success to holding the show mid-week on a Wednesday in which conflicts with other bigger shows are avoided and big name acts are free to attend. Invariably he said, the success of the show hinges on the participation of the community and the schools.
“Rotary Club does it for the kids and that is what makes it all worth it,” he said. “When you stand out there and you see the faces of the kids, that makes it all worth it right there.”
Craig Cosner, President of Wells Fargo Bank in Tucumcari has lived in the community since 1971. He plans to run a thinner staff Wednesday and close the lobby at 1 p.m. to support the show.
“It is a very admirable project and an opportunity for the community to be known outside Eastern New Mexico,” he said. “The community needs to support it.”
It has, and the air show teams have noticed. Beard has flown in this show in past years. He arrived in Tucumcari today to spend the day fishing with a friend. He said this show has a personal feel to it, and called Tucumcari a place he could see himself living some day.
“The bigger shows are exactly that — big,” he said. “We love flying in Tucumcari, it is really on the top of our list every year just because of the community environment.”
McClelland said keeping the performers coming back is simple — treat them like royalty.
“Tucumcari embraces these guys and we home-town them to death,” he said. “We put them up on that pedestal and really take good care of them.”