Originating in 1959, the Chicago Air & Water Show is the city's second most popular festival. In 2005, 2,200,000 watched the Chicago Air and Water Show. Strong in tradition and one of the world's premier aviation events, the show also includes a wide array of military and civilian acts. It is the largest FREE show of it's kind.
It is a free event and a favorite of kids and adults alike. There are daredevil pilots, parachute teams, and jets flying in formation, as well as a water-skiing and boat-jumping component for additional thrills. The great thing about this festival is that it's visible from almost everywhere along the Chicago lakefront. Grandstand seats for the water show are located at North Avenue Beach, but some of the best viewing points are farther north, at Montrose Harbor and between Belmont and Addison.
Many of the Air Show performers base their operations at Chicago's third airport, the Gary/Chicago International Airport in nearby Gary, Indiana. Each year the U.S. Army Golden Knights and biennually the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds headline the show. The air show features the best civilian and military pilots displaying their flying skills to a delighted spectators.
In 2008 the city celebrated the 50th Annual Chicago Air and Water Show over three days instead of the traditional two days on August 15th-17th, Friday through Sunday. For the first time in the show's history a third day was added. On Friday afternoon at 3pm the Air Show began featuring the Golden Knights, the Navy Seal Leap Frogs and the Blue Angels. Actress Florence Henderson will opened the airshow with the singing of the National Anthem. Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane was actor-comedian Bill Murray with the Golden Knights as he continues his efforts to support the USO. Steppenwolf Theatre alum and Oscar nominee Gary Sinese with his Lt. Dan Band will performed a live concert at 5pm at North Avenue Beach. The concert concluded with a B-1 bomber, signaling the continuation of the Air Show that went into the evening and ended with a fireworks show. The show drew a record crowd of 3.1 million spectators this year according to estimates probided the the Mayor's Office of Special Events and OEMC.
Pro freestyle jet skiers from the Liquid X Freestyle Tour competed at this year's show. Team Twangled headlines the riders entered. LXF Pro Tour champion Gary Burtka leads Twangled team mates Greg Brock, Mike Hoffman, and Michael Niksic. Riders will also via for "Best Wipe Out" and "Coolest Move" awards. Pushing the envelope, the tour riders will be using a double up wake provided by 35 foot+ cruisers and formula boats. Barrel rolls, inverts, back flips, kick-outs and boat throws will rule the waves in what is anticipated as the most extreme water sports event ever held in North America. State of the art ultra light hulls and back flip boats will be firing their engines on the planet's most dangerous body of fresh water. Watch for highlights on virtually all local news network affiliates, and ABC-TV Sunday night August 17th Wet n Wild Weekend special. Water show starts at 9am Sat-Sun. Encore performances after the Blue Angels both days at 4pm. The Air show runs from 11am through 4pm Sat. & Sun.
CHICAGO AIR & WATER SHOW In 2008 Chicago Air and Water Show celebrated 50 years of daredevil thrills in the air and on the water at North Avenue Beach and along Chicago’s magnificent lakefront August 15, 16 – 17, 2008. With Chicago's Skyline as a backdrop, audience numbers reach 2.2 million annually making the Chicago Air & Water Show the largest free admission air and water exhibition of its kind in the United States. The 50th Anniversary Chicago Air & Water Show promises to be like no other. Over the years the show has featured some of the top names in aviation. Biennially, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds headline along with the U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights. Exciting plans are being made to ensure the 2008 show will continue that.
The Chicago Air & Water Show is conducted in an extremely safe and conscientious way. Safety precautions are taken at all times before, during and after the show. Plans take off and land at the Gary International Airport in Gary, Indiana. All pilots perform stunts over the water in a set safety area. When a plane does fly over buildings, it is merely doing so in its flight path to return to the show area or the airport.
Organizers work closely with the FAA and various City Departments in a highly proactive manner to assure the safety of the all involved. All pilots and air personnel must attend morning meetings each day before flying to receive up-to-date information about weather and pertinent details to assure safe flights. Additionally, the event employs its own air traffic controller who oversees the downtown air space during show hours.
HISTORY In 1959 the first show was held under the direction of Al Benedict, a Chicago Park District Supervisor at Lakeshore Park. Held at Chicago Avenue and Lake Michigan, the show was titled the Lakeshore Park Air & Water Show, and was a part of a “Family Day” celebration for children enrolled in the Chicago Park District’s day camp program. The budget was $88, and the show featured a Coast Guard Air Sea Rescue demonstration, water skiers, a water ballet, games and a diving competition.
The following year, the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and Golden Knights Parachute Team performed to a huge crowd and the event became a Chicago summer tradition.
Eventually, the show was renamed the Chicago Park District Air & Water Show, expanded to two days, and moved to its current location at North Avenue Beach. Corporate sponsorship participation was incorporated in 1989, and now provides substantial support for the production costs of the show. The event has been managed by the Mayor’s Office of Special Events since 1994.
(source - They Mayor's Office of Special Events or www.airandwatershow.us)