A-10s arrive ahead of Freedom Fest

·3 min read

Jul. 6—GOSHEN — Two military pilots flew into the Goshen Municipal Airport Wednesday afternoon in preparation for one of the biggest annual celebrations in Elkhart County, which begins at 6 p.m. Saturday.

"It's always exciting to bring these cool jets out to places that maybe don't get to see a lot of military aircraft around and get to show these off a little bit," said Major Haden Fullam of the USAF A-10 Demo Team, one of the show's headliners, who flew one of the Warthogs into the airport Wednesday.

On average, the demonstration team does 20 shows per year, Fullam said, and post-COVID, airshows have become bigger than ever with the renewed interest of crowds.

The USAF A-10 Demo Team focuses on educating and engaging groups, especially youth, with the military, focused heavily on recruiting, which is also a focal point of America's Freedom Fest this year.

"We've got a lot of recruiters coming in because there's folk out there really working to show folks what going on in the military," said Chris Shakley, America's Freedom Fest director.

The Goshen Municipal Airport has loads of family fun scheduled for the evening. Including a helicopter industry tradeshow, motorcycles, a full airshow, games, activities, and fireworks, America's Freedom Fest has something for almost everyone.

Another headliner for the year is the Red Bull Helicopter.

"This guy flies all over the world," Shakley said. "He's been in blockbuster movies. He's flying from Texas to here for a six-minute performance. I'm not even quite sure how all of this came together but to have the Red Bull Helicopter here... I mean this guy does stuff in his helicopter that helicopters don't do."

In addition to the headliners, there will also be aerobatic acts, night acts, fireworks, jet power bikes, and more.

The airshow begins at 6 p.m. with nearly 3.5 hours of entertaining flight including RC jets, motorcycle stunts, and helicopter and motorcycle races.

There will also be food vendors, military personnel and tours of planes.

Ending the evening, the Mad Bomber Fireworks Spectacular will begin at 10 p.m. and Shakley said it lives up to its name.

"It is crazy," Shakley said.

Doors open earlier and earlier each year. This year, following two years of suspended showtime, this year's show is expected to bring in over 20,000 with gates opening at noon Saturday.

The specifics of the schedule are dynamic and changing right now, following a weekend tragedy.

Fullam added that this weekend's event is bittersweet following the passing of Chris Darnell during the Battle Creek Air Show, Driver/Pilot of the Flash Fire Jet Truck and the Shockwave Jet Truck and a long-time airshow participant that often traveled the circuit with the demonstration team.

"We were supposed to be here with Chris this weekend and we've done a lot of airshows with him and always had a great working relationship," Fullam said. "He is a staple in the airshow industry for sure, and he has one of the most unique performances out there and it was always one of the most exciting. My own kids, that was their favorite act of the airshow... it's made a huge impact throughout the industry and hopefully, we can carry on his name, carry on his legacy here and as we continue throughout the year."

Dani Messick is the education and entertainment reporter for The Goshen News. She can be reached at dani.messick@goshennews.com or at 574-538-2065.