Canada’s Snowbirds air demonstration jet team
Canada’s Snowbirds air demonstration jet team will be the star attraction at this weekend’s two-day Central Coast AirFest at the Santa Maria Public Airport. (Contributed photo)

The inaugural Central Coast AirFest will launch this weekend, celebrating modern military aircraft including the Canadian Forces Snowbirds and the U.S. military’s newest fighter, the F-35.

The event also will focus on Santa Maria’s aviation history when a rare still-flying P-38 Lightning takes to the skies. 

On Saturday and Sunday, the Santa Maria Public Airport will host the valley’s first air show after a three-year break for another event with different organizers.

The inaugural Central Coast AirFest will include a full slate of aerial acrobatics as well as static displays, with the air show staged behind the Santa Maria Radisson Hotel.

The Santa Maria performance by the headlining act, Canada’s Snowbirds air demonstration jet team, will mark the only California appearance by the team likened to the Air Force Thunderbirds or U.S. Navy Blue Angels.

The Snowbirds will arrive mid-day Thursday. Many of the other aircraft will arrive Thursday and Friday to participate in the show.

“The community has just been amazing this year as a far as sponsorships and volunteers,” said Chris Hastert, airport general manager. 

While the airport will host the show, a committee of volunteers, led by Chris Kunkle as air show director, has spearheaded planning. 

“They have just done an amazing job of keeping my workload down to a minimum,” Hastert said.

Organizers expect 10,000 and 15,000 people daily, but say the Snowbirds could boost the attendance to 25,000.

“The hype and buzz about this air show is really reaching out,” Hastert said, adding they had to cut off sponsorships since the materials had gone to the printers.

This year’s event will include performers whose relatives previously entertained crowds while flying daring stunts above Santa Maria.

Eric Tucker will bring his J-3 Cub Comedy Act to the AirFest. The Cal Poly alum is the son of Sean Tucker, who performed at several past events in Santa Maria.

One act, a Lockheed P-38 Lightning flight demonstration, also will perform, harkening back to the Santa Maria’s Valley history as the home for training hundreds of P-38 Lightning pilots at then-Santa Maria Army Air Field, located at the site of the airport.

The military’s newest fighter, Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 Lightning, also will show its capabilities above Santa Maria.

Multiple food trucks and vendors are expected, with a beer garden available to those 21 and older. 

For the kids, bounce houses, games and kid food also will be offered.

Aerial performances are planned every 15 minutes between noon and 4 p.m. both days, organizers said.

After the planes have landed for the day, concerts are planned for Saturday and Sunday.

Gates will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sunday. 

Pre-sale tickets cost $15 for adults ages 18 to 59, $5 for those ages 12 to 18, and free for under 12 or over 60 years old. 

Tickets purchased at the gate cost $5 more. 

VIP Experience tickets at $150 for adults and $75 for children include inside seating with food and beverage. There will also be outside seating exclusively for VIP Tent members. Members will have access to VIP exclusive bathrooms. 

Tickets can be purchased online by clicking here with a processing fee ranging from $1.89 to $9.99.

Paid parking both days costs $5, with parking off Blosser Road where buses will take air show attendees to the event. 

Attendees are encouraged to bring chairs. However, coolers will be prohibited.

This weekend’s show marks months of planning by organizers who attended the International Council of Air Shows event last year to begin lining up performers, with plans to attend again later this year.

Any proceeds from the inaugural event will go toward next year’s show, along with providing donations to nonprofit groups volunteering and to award aviation scholarships, Hastert said. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

A stylized hawk's head on a red background

Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com.