TRUCKEE, Calif. — Old soldiers never die. Consider for a moment the air shows held at Truckee Tahoe Airport between 1974 and 1996. The flamboyant display of Air Force F-16s, Marine Corps Vietnam-era helicopters and other privately owned old war birds attracted thousands of spectators, all of whom paid premium entry and parking fees.Despite the turn-outs, in 1996 the airport board of directors decided to forego hosting the event. According to previous reports, finances and politics were cited as the event's fatal flaw.Although the show was gone, it was never forgotten.Over the next 15 years, residents and boosters repeatedly lobbied for a revival, but efforts to bring back the event just couldn't seem to take off. A short-lived resurrection attempt in 2006 reportedly gathered speed, but eventually sputtered and gave out.
Buzz forward to the fall of 2011, when KidZone Museum Director Carol Meagher was scouting for a new location for one of the agency's annual fundraisers, the Tahoe Family Festival. The festival had previously been held at the Truckee River Regional Park, but Meagher was hoping to find a physically level space to accommodate one of the festival's popular events — a children's bike rodeo.Truckee Tahoe Airport General Manager Kevin Smith serves on the KidZone Museum board of directors. He knew of Meagher's needs and suggested she might be able to use the airport for her event.In the meantime, Smith was out and about in the community.“By chance, I went to a Tuesday morning Rotary breakfast sometime last fall,” recalled Norm Nicholls of the Truckee Optimist Club, “and I happened to sit down next to this gentleman who shook my hand and said he was Kevin Smith.”The men struck up a conversation, and Smith discovered the Optimist Club was exploring new fundraising event ideas.
Smith also knew residents associated with local chapters of the Civil Air Patrol and the Experimental Aircraft Association had long-standing interests in reviving an aviation-themed event in the area.With a huddle here and a conversation there, a natural coalition of local organizations emerged, and together they began working on a proposal for a community event to be held at Truckee Tahoe Airport.“We all knew each other from different avenues,” said Ken Aronson, of Truckee-Tahoe Civil Air Patrol, “and we knew what we were interested in.”Aronson said he and several others involved had been to the Lake in the Sky Airshow in South Lake Tahoe, and they had seen a new direction in aviation events. The South Shore event had only a few acrobatics displays — somersaulting and nose-diving airplanes — he said, but overall it most resembled a Fourth of July community get-together.Adding to the mix was Tim LoDolce of the Experimental Aircraft Association. LoDolce possessed some institutional knowledge as he had played a part in planning the old Truckee air shows in the 1980s and 90s. Acrobatic displays require the approval of the Federal Aviation Administration, a complicated and time-consuming process, LoDolce informed the group. The coalition members considered LoDolce's input and decided they wanted a non-acrobatic event that was simple, local and homegrown — by and for the community.
With this idea in mind, the alliance of agencies submitted a proposal to the Truckee Tahoe Airport board of directors.On Jan. 26, the board agreed to support the festival and approved a budget to help fund the inaugural 2012 Truckee Tahoe Air Fair and Family Festival.“The airport has been wanting to do this for a while,” said the airport's Smith.Smith estimates the event will cost between $50,000 and $60,000, which the airport district plans to cover as a service to the community. Local agencies will be able to sponsor booths and use the proceeds from the day to benefit their missions and organizations.“I'm so happy to not have to do all this by ourselves,” said KidZone's Meagher, who added that her solitary fundraising efforts were putting a strain on her organization. “It's a relief to work with other organizations who have the time and knowledge.”Though still in planning stages, the 2012 fair planning committee has tentative plans for an on-the-ground for display of aircraft of all types, hot air balloons (weather permitting), flyovers, a large food court, a beer garden, face-painting, free flights for children and other yet-to-be-determined activities.