Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

ALL UP IN THE AIR; Plane, Boat Fans Jam Beaches for Spectacular Aerial Event

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

ALL UP IN THE AIR; Plane, Boat Fans Jam Beaches for Spectacular Aerial Event

Article excerpt

Byline: BRAD SCHMIDT

Charles Reid walked along the sand Saturday with his 1-year-old son in his arms, out of his Navy uniform but still in a military mind-set as he pointed over the ocean to the jets making a thunderous noise.

"Here they come," he said excitedly to son Charlie, who -- like the rest of the estimated 250,000 in attendance this weekend -- seemed captivated by the 2005 Jacksonville Sea & Sky Spectacular.

The event features a variety of aerial shows headlined by the Navy's Blue Angels. In even-numbered years, a similar show is held at Jacksonville Naval Air Station.

"The setting here has really caught on," said Theresa O'Donnell, Jacksonville's director of special events.

People packed Jacksonville Beach streets to catch glimpses of the daylong show. Those who didn't opt to build sand castles watched from packed balconies of waterfront hotels and condominiums.

At Quality Suites, rooms for this weekend sold out six months in advance, front desk staff worker Adam Bramel said. The air show is matched only by the Florida-Georgia game for advanced booking, with families shelling out $279 a night for a spectacular view, he said.

In between the shows, people flooded surrounding restaurants and booths for food and entertainment.

"Although it's a short event, it's volume-packed with people," said Debbie Campbell, who manages the Jax Beach Seafood booth in the festival hub.

The faithful turned out this year to see a variety of aircraft -- among them F-86s, B-52s and F-16s. They also could see Navy ships in the ocean and watch amphibious landing demonstrations.

Everyone had their favorite.

"I liked it," said Gavin Casey, 8. "The airplanes were doing cool tricks."

"It brought back a lot of memories," said Dwaine Blackwell, a 20-year Navy veteran who got to tour a hovercraft. Blackwell said it's important to have such events to raise awareness about the military. …

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