Out and About: Sun ‘n Fun Opening Day in Lakeland

Restored warbirds sit on the flight line. Photo: Kirk Garreans
Restored warbirds sit on the flight line. Photo: Kirk Garreans

It’s that time again!

April 1st was not only April Fool’s Day, but was also opening day! No, not baseball – I’m talking about the opening day for the Sun ‘n Fun airshow at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport in Lakeland, FL.

For those of us that are addicted to the beauty and thrill of flying, this is one of the best airshows in the country. You baseball fans can keep your peanuts, popcorn and cracker jacks – I’ll stick with the sound of spinning props, the roar of jet engines, and the smell of gas and jet fuel, thank you very much!

This year they are celebrating the airshow’s 40th anniversary, which seems to grow larger every year. There is so much to see that it is almost impossible to see everything at the show in a single day. From the old faithful warbirds to the latest experimental and homebuilt planes – even flying cars are on exhibit! There is literally something for anyone even remotely interested in aviation or even thrill-seeking spectators. There are exhibits spread throughout the airfield, with everything from spare parts for vintage airplanes to electronic navigation aids, flight simulators, and so much more.

A WWII C-47, converted to a DC-3. This plane’s history includes flying for the U.S. Army, missionary service in South America, and as a crop sprayer before being beautifully restored to its current airshow worthy condition. Photo: Kirk Garreans
A WWII C-47, converted to a DC-3. This plane’s history includes flying for the U.S. Army, missionary service in South America, and as a crop sprayer before being beautifully restored to its current airshow worthy condition. Photo: Kirk Garreans

Of course, many people feel that the best exhibits are the static displays of the airplanes themselves. There is a huge variety of planes that you can walk around, under, and sometimes even into (a few request a small fee or donation). There are WWII DC-3’s (a personal favorite), single engine homebuilts, biplanes, warbirds, jets, and a few commercial planes on the ramps, allowing people to get up close with their favorite planes.

Another offering each year are the rides – there are always a few vendors offering (for an extra fee) rides on their aircraft. Among the unique rides this year, you could be a passenger on a Ford Trimotor, an SB2C Helldiver, or a B-17 bomber. These flights are limited, so it is best to sign up early online for these experiences.

Dan Marcotte puts his Ultimate 10-200 Biplane into a steep climb. Photo: Kirk Garreans
Dan Marcotte puts his Ultimate 10-200 Biplane into a steep climb. Photo: Kirk Garreans

And you can’t forget the actual airshow. Each day, professional pilots in a wide variety of aircraft show off their skills and their airplanes in the skies above the airfield, from 3 to 6 pm. This year, there are some very special treats, with the return of the Blue Angels, and an encore appearance by the F-22 Raptor! They will only be flying in the shows on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so those are the prime days for the airshow. Friday and Saturday there are also nighttime shows in the skies. There are other special activities each day, with guest speakers, lots of specialized classes and training, a great Kid’s Zone with bounce houses (including a Space Shuttle inflatable!), a rock wall, and more.

There are bounce houses, a rock wall, and other fun activities for the kids to enjoy, in addition to all the airplanes, helicopters, and the airshow activities. Photo: Kirk Garreans
There are bounce houses, a rock wall, and other fun activities for the kids to enjoy, in addition to all the airplanes, helicopters, and the airshow activities. Photo: Kirk Garreans

The airshow is open daily April 1-6. Adult general admission is $37 daily, or $150 for the entire week. Youth 11-17 are $15 per day / $60 for the week, and kids 10 and under are FREE! Parking is $10 per day, or $40 for the week. There are Florida Resident specials, as well as several upgrade packages you can buy, so be sure to check out the Sun ‘n Fun website for all the details at sun-n-fun.org.

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