An Air Force F-16 Viper Demonstration Team raced across the skies above Santa Maria on Friday, dropping pyrotechnics that sent up a huge cloud of black smoke and sparked concerns on social media.
The attention-grabbing military jet, from the headlining act for the second Central Coast AirFest, will be one of several performances entertaining crowds Saturday and Sunday at the Santa Maria Public Airport.
AirFest organizer Chris Kunkle and his army of volunteers added finishing touches on Friday, pausing periodically to watch the aerial artistry and eagerly anticipate the planned pyrotechnic show expected to be even more dramatic this weekend.
“I’m ready for it to go,” Kunkle, AirFest director, said Friday. “I don’t want it to be over because I love this stuff, and it’s passion of mine. But we’ve done all this planning for a year; we’re ready to make this thing happen,”.
“You want to get inside. That’s where the experience is at,” he added.
On Friday, air crews provided flight demonstrations in the sky while volunteers worked on the ground to park other aircraft that will sit on static display this weekend.
Gates will open at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, with radio-control aircraft demonstrations starting at 10:30 a.m.
Teams will gather Saturday morning to pull an airplane some 12 feet testing their strength, stamina and heart in a bid to raise funds — and walk away with bragging rights.
AirFest also will include multiple vendors, a beer garden, food trucks and a kids’ zone with bounce houses.
Assorted civilian and military performances will fill the sky for several hours while additional military aircraft, including a huge C-17 and an Osprey, will sit on display, with some offering tours Saturday and Sunday.
AirFest debuted last year after the Santa Maria Valley, despite its rich aviation history, was left without an air show.
“We’re just happy to bring it back for another year,” Kunkle said.
AirFest general admission tickets, ages 16-64, are $35, while senior citizens 65 and older, active-duty military members, and military retirees will be be admitted for $10.
Tickets for youths ages 5 to 15 cost $10, while younger children will be admitted for free.
A group rate, two general admission and two children or one general admission and three children, cost $45.
Reserved seating costs $45 while VIP tent admission is $150.
Parking at the airport will cost $10.
Air show attendees can enter through one gate just south of the Santa Maria Radisson and another gate between the Santa Maria Fire Station and English Air Service.
For more information about the event, go to the website by clicking here.