RAF Mildenhall to host community day instead of Air Fete air show
January 22, 2005
RAF MILDENHALL, England — The 100th Air Refueling Wing at RAF Mildenhall has pulled the plug on one of Europe’s largest air shows for 2005.
Instead, in June the base will invite 25,000 people from nearby towns and villages for a day of games and American food, billing it as Community Appreciation Day.
Col. Richard Devereaux, wing commander, said this does not mean Air Fete, a two-day air show that sometimes attracted 500,000 people, will not be held in the future.
“I won’t say Air Fete is dead, and I won’t say Air Fete will return,” he said.
However, he said, the base thought it best this year to hold a smaller event for the local people rather than a larger one that draws aviation enthusiasts from all over Europe and beyond. “We’re trying to design an event that appeals to our local community,” he said Friday morning.
Plus, he said, new Air Force regulations prohibit charging admission for air shows.
“The cost would have been enormous,” he said.
Air Fete began in 1976 as part of America’s bicentennial celebration. It was held annually, usually on Memorial Day weekend, until 1999, when it was canceled because of the U.S. bombing campaign in the province of Kosovo in the former Yugoslavia.
It was held again in 2000 and 2001, but operations for the ongoing war on terror canceled it the following two years. The show couldn’t be held last year as the base’s runway was closed for renovation.
Devereaux said the base considered holding Air Fete this year, but wanted to do something for the people in the area where base families live, shop and play. He admitted the locals have been inconvenienced by increased security since the terrorist attacks in America on Sept. 11, 2001. “We fear that … walls have gone up around RAF Mildenhall,” he said.
The Community Appreciation Day on June 4, he said, is an effort to “beat down those walls.”
“We want to sort of lift the veil a little bit and show off our mission and show off some of our aircraft,” he said.
The base will target people living in the districts of Forest Heath, East Cambridgeshire and Breckland and the Borough of St. Edmundsbury.
Lt. Col. Larry Walker, the wing’s inspector general and the project officer for the event, said the local councils have been told of the plans and will be instrumental in dispersing the free tickets.
“We’re totally involving the council members in our planning meetings,” he said. “It’s not just the U.S. assuming what our local U.K. friends would want.”
The number of 25,000 was reached, Walker said, after a parking analysis determined between 6,000 and 7,000 cars could be parked on the base. That equates to 25,000 people, he said.