Chicago Air and Water Show 2022: What You Need to Know
Love it or hate it, the full-scale Chicago Air and Water Show is back this weekend for the first time since 2019.
Two million people are expected by the lake for this free event. And, although the weekend forecast calls for rain, organizers say the show will go on.
“We have every intention of having the full show happen,” said Jennifer Johnson Washington, deputy commissioner at the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. “If the weather is bad, the show could shut down while we wait for a front to pass…if we’re just talking about cloud cover, they can adjust the show in terms of elevation.”
Whether you can’t wait to watch the dozens of aerial acts in amazement or you’re among those who already hate the decibel rise, here’s what you need to know.
When is this happening? The festivities (and the noise) kick off Friday with practice flights and will continue through Sunday afternoon at North Avenue Beach. The show will begin at 10 a.m. and continue until 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Where can I watch? The center of the show is North Avenue Beach, but the viewing area extends from Oak Street to Fullerton Avenue. For prime seating, viewers should arrive early in order to beat the crowds – the viewing area opens to the public at 6am on both days of the show.
How can I get there? Public transit is the way to go, mainly because there’s no public parking at the beach on weekends and limited parking at nearby Lincoln Park Zoo. Extended routes and additional buses and trains will be added to accommodate crowds – see detailed plans here. If you must drive, park in the Millennium Park garages, which will offer free shuttles to and from North Avenue Beach.
What should I bring? Whatever the weather, Washington encourages attendees to plan a day at the beach: pack plenty of water and wear sunscreen, even on cloudy days. Earplugs and binoculars are recommended, but these items are prohibited: pets (service animals are allowed), barbecues, alcohol, drones, fireworks, tents or awnings, balloons, kites and flagpoles.
What if I’m a complete newbie? If you want to experience the festivities, but don’t know anything about planes, Herb Hunter will be there to guide you. As the “voice of the show,” his narration of each performer’s choreography will play throughout the viewing area for first-time and seasoned viewers alike, as he has done for over 35 years. The show will also be broadcast live on WBBM Newsradio 780/105.9.
For the love of Pete, how do I escape the noise? Leave town immediately. And you’ll want to go further than northwest Indiana because planes take off and land at Gary/Chicago International Airport.
More information can be found on the official event website.
What is remarkable this year
Fan favorites returning this year include the Army Parachute Team hovering on earth thousands of feet above. A rare joint appearance by the US Air Force Heritage Flight and US Navy Legacy Flights is new this year
One person who will be notably absent is Rudy Malnati Jr., a member of the famous pizza family who served as the show’s “air chef” for more than 30 years. Malnati, who died of cancer last December, had attended every air and boat show since its inception in 1959, his wife say it Sun-Times. Performances this weekend will be dedicated to his memory, including a special “missing man” dedication from the Navy.
“He was such an essential part of the show,” Washington said. “We are thrilled to continue in his memory and try to make him proud.”
This year’s show will feature a wide variety of vintage and modern aircraft. While program details are determined on the morning of the broadcast, here are some of the 18 military acts and eight civilian acts set to appear this year:
US Navy Blue Angels: Back with gravity-defying moves, the Blue Angels have been flying for the public since 1946. Their aerial maneuvers are performed in Super Hornet jets.
United States Army Parachute Team Golden Knights: Parachute team members will jump from an airplane 12,000 feet above the ground and land precisely on North Avenue Beach.
US Air Force Heritage Flights and US Navy Legacy Flights: For the first time, the crews will perform together at the Chicago Air and Water Show. The Navy also provided an additional fighter aircraft to its Legacy Flight to incorporate the “Missing Man” dedication to Malnati.
Civilian performers include: Susan Dacy, a stunt pilot who performs barrel rolls and other maneuvers in her vintage “Big Red” biplane; The Chicago Fire Department’s Air/Sea Rescue Service; and the Chicago Police Department helicopter
Hey, history buffs: Did you know?
The city’s air and water show is a summer staple and the longest running show of its kind. But when it started in 1959, it was a much more humble affair – starting with a budget only $88.
The first year the show was held, there were “rowing contests, a watermelon-eating contest, and there was a greased pole the kids could climb,” Gerry Souter, who wrote The Chicago Air and Water Show: A Story of Wings Above the Waves, says Curious City in 2018. He added that “everyone had a great time”.
WBEZ’s Mark LeBien contributed to this report.
Courtney Kueppers is a digital producer/reporter at WBEZ. Am here @cmkueppers.