The Air and Water Show, one of Chicago’s greatest events, is just a few hours away.
“It’s an amazing event,” said Dave Adams, head of programs for the Air & Water Show. “It’s free. Families can go out, spend the day on the beach, watch airplanes over the water, see the beautiful backdrop, it’s our horizon.”
It is one of the busiest places. More than a million visitors are expected to come from Fullerton to Oak Street to witness the weekend extravaganza along the lakefront, with North Avenue Beach serving as the event’s focal point, organizers said.
However, there may be a way to see the show without the crowd around you: attend a practice.
“Everybody knows that a rehearsal is a complete show,” Adams said. “So if you want to beat the crowd, today is the day to attend.”
Rehearsals for the Chicago Air & Water Show are Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. And one of the most anticipated shows, according to Adams, is that the Thunderbirds will rehearse on Friday from 2:15 to 3 p.m.
“The Thunderbirds are back for the first time since 2018,” Adams said. “They have choreographed a new show which is being shown for the first time.”
The annual free event, which began in 1959, originally began as an air show with an $88 budget. It has now become one of the largest shows of its kind, featuring high-speed civilian and military aircraft and aerial stunts, as well as diving and skydiving boats and equipment.
According to the city of Chicago, flights this weekend are scheduled to perform stunts over water in a designated safety zone, and the event uses its own air traffic controller to monitor downtown airspace during business hours.
The Chicago Air & Water Show is “extremely safe and conscientiously run,” according to the city’s website.
Organizers said all participating planes will take off from Cary/Chicago International Airport in Cary and make stunts over a specific area of Lake Michigan.
Chicago Air & Water Show lineup
Performances are held on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30 am to 3:00 pm. According to officials, the drivers will decide the morning line-up of the show.
“Artists are subject to change,” officials said.
However, according to Adams, the Thunderbirds are scheduled to perform for about 40 to 45 minutes each day, including Friday, around 2:15 p.m.
Here is the list of presentations:
- US Air Force Thunderbirds.
- US Army Golden Knights Parachute Team
- US Air Force F-16 Viper Demonstration Team.
- United States Air Force Heritage Aircraft Demonstration Team. (P-51 Mustang)
- US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III demonstration team.
- US Air Force/Air National Guard A-10 Thunderbolt II (x4)
- US Air Force/Air National Guard KC-135E Stratotanker
- US Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet “Rhino” demonstration team.
- US Army Legacy Aircraft Demonstration Team. (A-4B Skyhawk and FG-1D Cosair)
- US Coast Guard MH-65D search and rescue demonstration.
- Civil pilot, Susanna Dacey.
- Civil pilot, Bill Stein.
- Civil pilot, Kevin Coleman.
- Civil pilot, Rob Holland.
- Chicago Fire Department Air/Sea Rescue
- Chicago Police Department helicopter
How to get to the show
The city recommends using public transportation to get to the event, as there will be no public parking on the beach during the weekend. Also, the number 72 CTA bus that regularly stops at North Avenue Beach will be rerouted.
The Millennium Park garages offer discounted parking and shuttle service from the garage to the interior of Jean Baptiste Point du Sable Lake Shore Drive.
In addition, the CTA is set to offer additional routes and buses, and Metra is set to offer four additional routes to lakefront commuters.
You can find more information about Chicago Air and Water Show 2023 is here.
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