This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Lunch with Speros

The speaker at Wednesday's Chamber of Commerce luncheon was Speros A. Batistatos, the President/CEO of the South Shore Convention & Visitors Authority (SSCVA). I decided to use my one connection with a Chamber Member to gain entry into the event that was held in the conference room of the Jasper County Hospital.

The South Shore Air Show was originally a project of the City of Gary. When Gary ran out of money, the SSCVA took it over and ran it in Gary for seven years. During that time it lost an average of $180,000 per year. The problem was that only about 15% of those watching it paid anything. The others found comfortable places along the Lake Michigan beach or sat in boats in Lake Michigan. For some reason, after the sequestration they needed to find a new spot. Hammond and Whiting were not possible because they sit under the flight path for Midway Airport. They looked at Michigan City and I do not recall if he ever gave a reason why they could not do it there.

Then one night Batistatos thought of Fair Oaks Farms. South Shore approached them and they were receptive to the idea. He said that all air shows in the U.S. are held either at airports or over water, so that an  air show over an attraction will break new ground. He then opened the floor to questions.

There were several questions about traffic. The entrance ramps at I-65 and SR 14 will be closed for the show. Those attending will have to get off at SR 10 if they are coming from the north and SR 114 if they are coming from the south. He expects the bulk of traffic to come from the north. Asked about coming down US 41 and over on SR 14, he noted that SR 14 is in very bad shape.

There will be over 100 acres for parking and they have planned for up to 15,000 vehicles. They have hired a special management team from New York to manage parking, but need about 150 people on the ground to help with it. They are looking for not-for-profit organizations to provide those people and receive a donation for the help. People are not allowed to bring coolers to the event because they do not want alcoholic beverages brought in. When they were doing the event on the lake front, people would bring vodka in water bottles and after they got drunk, they would become disorderly. There will be a low tolerance for disorderly behavior. He wants this to be a family event without the drunks. There will be water available (and I assumed that it will not cost anything).

Air shows have a flight box that cannot be entered. The FOF flight box will be 1500 feet wide beginning somewhere west of the buildings and extending westward. It will be three miles long and five miles high. No cars can be parked under the box. There will be a row of portapotties along SR 14, where they can be easily serviced.

The car show on Thursday was added as a small-scale test of the parking plan. They expect 500 cars.

The Harrier jet that was supposed to be parked at Jasper County Airport has been removed from the show because two Harriers have crashed in the past two months. Batistatos said that the Friday evening show is the most spectacular. It begins with the Thunderbirds performing from 3:30 to 4:00 (which is their time every day). Then there is a break until the rest of the show starts at 5:30. The show ends with fireworks at about 9:45.

On Saturday and Sunday the parking lots open at 9:00. There are various package deals available on their website as well as more information. People tend not to buy tickets much beforehand because they want to see what the weather will be like.

It will be a busy weekend.

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