The United States Air Force Thunderbirds will headline the Rhode Island National Guard Air Show this Saturday and Sunday at Quonset Point.
And while the jets are zooming overhead, the Guard, state and local police, and the Department of Transportation, will be doing all they can to ensure traffic on Routes 95 and 4 keeps moving, too. During last year’s show, sections of the two highways turned into parking lots, as for the first time, the show was overbooked and there was no way of turning new arrivals away.
“Everything is being done to avoid a repeat performance,” says Lt. Col. Peter Parente of the Rhode Island National Guard that has sponsored the show for years. Attendance at the show – gates open at 9 a.m. both days with flying starting at 10, weather permitting – is free, however, attendees are asked to make a $10 donation for parking. Those funds are contributed to Hasbro Children’s Hospital.
Parente reported that an additional area for parking, which will accommodate another 1,000 vehicles, is being made available. Transportation from the parking area to the field will be provided. The Guard will be keeping close watch on the turnout and should it appear that parking will become a problem, an advisory that the show is full will be issued to the news media, on Facebook, the show website, on the Amber Alert system and on electronic road signs. A cadre of volunteers and military police will coordinate parking, Parente said.
State Police are also stepping up their presence. Captain Frank B. Castellone said the numbers of troopers assigned to the show would be nearly doubled to 11. Two motorcycle crews will be working Routes 95 and 4 in the vicinity of the show. State Police and the Guard are also coordinating their efforts with local police to ensure the show experience won’t be marred by being stuck in traffic.
Parente believes the combination of acts and appearances of some of the nation’s newest “war birds,” such as the F-18 and the Harrier, drove up last year’s attendance. Good weather may have also had something to do with it, not to mention the economy. A free show, especially one as varied and prolonged as the air show, is a big attraction in these times where people are paying close attention to every dollar.
The show is expected to wind up about 4:30 p.m. on both days. While there won’t be as many “fast mover war planes” this year, says Parente, there will be no lack of attractions. He said there are more bi-plane performers. In addition, there will be a variety of static displays, including the Guard’s C 130J Super Hercules that people will be able to enter. As has become a major attraction, there will be a combined arms demonstration where aircraft and ground forces display their firepower.
Spectators are urged to bring their lawn chairs, umbrellas and blankets, but not their pets. Lounge chairs are also not permitted.
Food can be brought into the show, but it cannot be carried in a cooler. Water in unopened clear plastic bottles may be taken into the show; all other liquids are prohibited.
Provisions have been made by the Quonset Air Museum for the limited parking of RVs on a first-come, first-serve basis. RV parking started Wednesday and carries a $50 fee for the weekend.
Although run by the National Guard, the show is made possible through the sponsorship of Rhode Island companies, including Citizens Bank, Dunkin’ Donuts and CVS. Fees for vendors also help underwrite the show. Sponsors receive VIP tickets and have a reserved area to view the show.
Performers in this year’s show among others include: Sean D. Tucker, Michael Goulian, John Klatt, Pietsch Air Shows, Geico Skytypers, USASOC Jump Team – The Black Daggers, the Guard’s Blackhawk helicopters, Air Guard’s Flag Fire Jet Truck and the Guard’s C-130J Super Hercules.
Additional information is available on the show website at www.riairshow.org.