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The Air Force Thunderbird team flies in formation during the 2012 Rhode Island Open House Air Show.
The Air Force Thunderbird team flies in formation during the 2012 Rhode Island Open House Air Show. (Bob Breidenbach/The Providence Journal/TNS)

(Tribune News Service) — Quonset State Airport in North Kingstown will play center stage to a much-missed air show this coming year. But flying fans are likely to notice some differences, including a $24 entrance fee.

Always among Rhode Island’s most anticipated events, the air show is no longer free. It also has a new name, “Ocean State Air Show,” and a new manager, AirDotShow, which specializes in livestreaming its shows to online audiences.

The Rhode Island National Guard will participate in the event, and the show is expected to once again feature military aircraft such as the F-22.

But the arrival of a for-profit management company is a substantial change in the organizational structure of the air show.

That change was accepted, only reluctantly, by the organization that previously hosted the show, the National Guard Association of Rhode Island.

The association is separate from the Guard in the way that a parent booster club is separate from the high school it supports.

A collection of factors, from decreased federal funding and greater burdens on National Guard personnel to far less space for parking at Quonset, made it impossible for both the Association and the Guard to handle the air show as it has in the past, according to National Guard spokesman Capt. Mark A. Incze.

“There was never a choice between a Rhode Island National Guard Air Show and a for-profit one,” Incze said. “The choice was for-profit or no air show.”

The show wasn’t held in 2019 due to Guard deployments and it was suspended again in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.

As the designated host, AirDotShow has responsibility for booking the flyers who will perform. A representative of the company, which has experience running major aerial events around the country, could not be reached for comment.

Performers in the 2022 show, on June 25 and June 26, will include an F-22 from the U.S. Air Combat Command, an AV-8B Harrier from the Marine Corps, as well as a C-130J Hercules and a Black Hawk helicopter, according to posts at OceanStateAirshow.com.

A post on the site references a $24 general admission ticket but also talks about a President’s Day sale in which early purchasers can get “40 percent off” the price at the gate. It’s not clear if $24 is the price or the reduced price.

With approval from the Department of Defense, the Guard itself can still participate in the air show much as it has in the past, not as the host but by flying its own aircraft and by helping in the launch and recovery of other military aircraft, Incze said.

The web-site for previous versions of the beloved airshow is still online, including a post that describes parking as “absolutely FREE!” and mentions the possibility of making a “purely voluntary” $10 donation at the show’s entrance to support Hasbro Children’s Hospital.

The outdated web-site says the airshow had given more than $2 million to charities, including more than $1.7 million to Hasbro Children’s Hospital, since it started.

The hospital’s chief development officer, Ryan P. Whalen, said the hospital has treasured its relationship with the Guard association and thanks it for more than three decades of support.

Retired Lt. Gen. Reginald Centracchio had a hand in the show and in the accompanying open house, as it was known, for many years. He said he applauds the decision to try and keep the show alive with help from AirDotShow.

The air show is not likely to draw 60,000 to 80,000 people to the airport as it did in the past, but the livestreaming feature has the potential to bring the spectacle to large numbers of people, he said.

“There are many good points to it,” Centracchio said.

©2022 www.providencejournal.com.

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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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