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Airshow at Villeneuve takes flight this August

Bill Carter, CF-18s, and a Stratofortress expected
1407 AirshowLaunch airshowdr807
WHEE — Bill Carter performs a harrowing inverted knife-edge ribbon cut in his Pitts Special S2S during the 2017 Edmonton Airshow at the Villeneuve Airport. Carter is one of the many acts set to perform at the 2021 Aberta International Airshow at Villeneuve. DAN RIEDLHUBER/St. Albert Gazette

Clarification
The print version of this story said that the province "pledged $360,000" to support the airshow. Richard Skermer notes that this pledge was a verbal commitment by the province that had yet to be finalized in writing as of July 15, 2021. The online version of the story has been updated to reflect this fact.

 

Stunt planes and Stratofortresses shall soar over Sturgeon County this August as the air show at Villeneuve takes off for the first time in two years.  

Organizer Richard Skermer confirmed July 13 that Villeneuve Airport would host the Alberta International Airshow this Aug. 20 to 22.  

Formerly known as the Edmonton Airshow, the air show at Villeneuve has previously drawn some 40,000 people the Villeneuve Airport to celebrate aviation and area businesses.  

The air show was cancelled in 2019 due to excessive rain and again in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“We can’t survive three cancellations in a row,” Skermer said, and the air show team wanted to honour its commitment to its 2019 ticketholders. 

Skermer said this year’s show would be a traditional, if slightly scaled back one, that would follow all relevant provincial pandemic health measures. Guests can wear masks if they wish, and may be asked to stay back from some static displays, depending on military health rules.  

Start of something big 

This year’s air show was backed by more than $300,000 in support from federal, provincial, and Edmonton-area governments.  

Sturgeon County council voted 6-1 (Coun. Karen Shaw opposed) to provide the air show with $100,000 in support July 13. This was in addition to the $20,000 in in-kind support it normally offers and the roughly $8,300 in penalties it cancelled due to the cancellation of the 2019 and 2020 air shows. 

Council heard Skermer had told members of the Villeneuve Landing Network June 25 there was keen interest from international performers to hold an air show this year, but that he would need more money to do so. 

"This thing costs a lot of money to put on,” Skermer said in an interview, and the air show is a non-profit whose sole money-making event had been cancelled two years in a row. 

Skermer said this support is meant to get the air show back on track as an economic engine and to demonstrate to international investors that Sturgeon can pull off a major event quickly. Next year, when international travel becomes easier, the air show will host a trade show and career fair that will help promote Alberta and local industrial parks to investors. He projected that the air show could have an economic impact of $100 million a year. 

“It’s our chance to build a (Calgary) Stampede,” Skermer said, referring to that event’s role as an investment attractor. 

County council heard the air show will support the region’s aerospace, tourism, and hydrogen industries.  

Mayor Alanna Hnatiw said the provincial government had verbally pledged $360,000 to support the air show, with St. Albert offering $24,000 in combined cash and in-kind support. Spruce Grove, area chambers of commerce, and Edmonton International Airport had also chipped in tens of thousands of dollars.  

Villeneuve-area Coun. Wayne Bokenfohr said supporting this air show would help the county build momentum behind its aerospace industry.  

“We have a huge opportunity to showcase Villeneuve,” he said, which is coming up on its 125th anniversary next year. 

Big planes, big stunts 

On the air show’s schedule as of July 13 were a flyby by a gigantic U.S. B-52 Stratofortress, some mid-air jet fighter refueling, a helicopter search-and-rescue demonstration, and the Canadian CF-18 and U.S. A-10 Thunderbolt II demonstration teams. Skermer said ground-based acts were still up in the air, as those would depend on provincial health regulations.  

Civilian acts included Jacquie Warda, Yellow Thunder, and St. Albert’s Bill Carter. 

Carter said he was pleased to hear this year’s air show was a go for takeoff, and had flown about 30 practice flights in his blue Pitts Special this year in preparation.  

“We love what we do,” he said of air show pilots. He looks forward to talking with fans on the tarmac this August. 

Skermer said he hoped to have tickets available for sale by July 19. He wasn’t sure on the size of this year’s crowd, but guessed it would be less than 40,000. All 2019 tickets will be honoured. 

Watch www.edmontonairshow.com for updates. 

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Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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