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Thunder in the Sky: Toledo Air Show Returns after decade-long absence

TOLEDO, Ohio -- The Toledo Air Show, absent from the Toledo skies since before Keeping up with the Kardashian's inundated television, Pluto was removed as a planet and Apple released the iPhone, returned for the first time in more than a decade for a two-day spectacle of aerial performances July 16-17, 2016, at the Toledo Express Airport.

Aircraft of all variation glistened under the morning sun as dawn broke on Saturday, July 16, awaiting the arrival of tens of thousands of people eager to witness thunder returning to the sky as the 2016 Toledo Air Show opened its gates after more than a 12-year drought.

From classic and modern aircraft to fire-propelled trucks and even the "World's Strongest Man," the air show offered something for everyone. Over the two-day show, more than 52,000 spectators delighted at this historic event showcasing 15 performers and 20 static displays with two featured military acts, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, America's Ambassador's in Blue, and the U.S. Army  Golden Knights Parachute Demonstration Team.

In addition to the Thunderbirds and Golden Knights, acts included aerial performances from the Ohio Air National Guard 180th Fighter Wing F-16s, U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet, P-51 Mustang "Quicksilver," F-4U Corsair, Rob Holland, Mike Wiskus, Jacquie B, T-51 Titan and Flashfire Jet Truck.

"The impact of this show was significant," said Joe Zerbey, president of the Toledo Blade and one of three co-hosts for the air show. "It reinvigorated the importance of the 180th Fighter Wing, the U.S. Air Force, the Air National Guard and our military in general to the local community and the nation as a whole."

Community organizations and corporations came together with assistance from the military to bring the people of the northwest region an air show to remember, but it wasn't the easiest of tasks with the learning curve between varying military and civilian requirements. A significant amount of pre-planning and coordination was essential, starting more than six months before the gates opened, a feat that normally takes 12-24 months to plan. 

"Over several months before the air show we had about 55 planning meetings, each lasting approximately two hours, along with countless phone calls and additional time spent planning and coordinating," said John Barnes, Assistant Fire Chief at the 180FW and air show public safety co-chair. "Overall, having the support of so many personnel and agencies come together showed that public safety units, in and around the Lucas County, can come together and work together successfully with minimal issues."

In planning the air show, a civilian board was created, with more than 11 different departments, all with a military liaison to help the communication flow between civilian and military partners.

There was no roadmap for hosting an Air Show, no step-by-step guide, and only few people on the board had previously worked on the 2004 Meijer Toledo Air Show, the last one to be hosted in Toledo.

"The fact that we pulled it off with all of the initial challenges seemed at times to be a miracle," Zerbey said. "The looks on the faces of the public as the performers did their thing and the unbelievable extent the military showed up, the static displays and the airmanship, every little piece was unbeatable."

The 2016 Toledo Air Show was by many definitions, a huge success, with plans already in the works for the next air show.  The return of the event was an exceptional opportunity for the community to see the power of the nation's Air Force while also working with members in uniform to coordinate a great show for the public.

"I am unbelievably excited to be joining a community that rallies together to host an Air Show like the one we saw this summer," said Col. Kevin V. Doyle, new wing commander at the 180FW. "I look forward to the future knowing that our community and military bond is stronger than ever."

"The show was a win-win for everyone. We are at war. Not many of those in attendance even think about that. But it gave us all a chance to say thank you to so many young people in uniform." Zerbey said. "It made you feel safe and proud to see how smart they are, how impressive the equipment is and how dedicated a military we have in the defense of our country."

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