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Florida International Air Show canceled due to lack of funding, virus concerns

A big economic boost has been lost now that the annual Florida International Air Show in Charlotte County is canceled in October.

Organizers say sponsors backed out. They are worried about resurgence in the fall, and since the virus had a big impact on county resources.

Many were anticipating watching planes do tricks and flips at the air show’s new home in Charlotte Harbor. Businesses were looking forward to big bucks from the crowds. But event organizers say that’s not going to happen this year.

Although the coronavirus pandemic was a factor, organizer said the final straw came down to money.

It’s a show thousands of people look forward to every year, with skilled pilots from around the country soaring through the sky and millions of dollars flowing into Charlotte County businesses.

“Last year, the audit for the economic impact to Charlotte County was $5 million to the community over a three-day weekend,” said Dana Carr, the chairman of the air show.

“The air show brings a lot of people into our pub and brings us plenty of business,” said Kenn McCoog, the owner of the Belgian Monk.

But this year, the planes are grounded months ahead of schedule.

“It’s just a shame that unfortunately the financial aspect just does not make it work,” Carr said.

Carr has been to every Florida International Air Show for the past 38 years. He says moving the show from Punta Gorda airport to the Charlotte Harbor because of construction was already a financial hit.

But, with the suspension of sponsors, possibility of a resurgence of COVID-19 and a big bill from the City of Punta Gorda, Carr says this year’s air show was not feasible.

“It’s hard to put on a free air show, which would cost us about $100,000 and then pay the city an additional $30,000 in fees for the police department, fire department and their road department,” Carr said.

Businesses already hit hard by COVID-19 closures say they wish they could look forward to the foot traffic the show brings every year.

“We’ll still have a good day that day but not as good as it would have been if the air show had been here,” McCoog said.

But event organizers say there is still next year to bring a tradition back to Charlotte County skies.

The City of Punta Gorda says every event that requires services such as police, fire and road crews are charged accordingly.

A city spokesperson says there may have been an opportunity for air show organizers to ask the city to pay for some of the services, but they said city council was not presented with the final plans for the show.

Air show organizers say they are planning a flyover to thank and honor health workers and first responders working to fight COVID-19.

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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