Feb. 28—The Stars & Stripes Air Show Spectacular Sunday was one of the biggest in its history, as lines were formed all throughout the Laredo International Airport area which extended from all directions in the Metro Park & Ride area.
Many Laredoans returned to see one of their favorite events while others attended for the first time.
With the Washington's Birthday Celebration Association event, the organization's month-long festivities have nearly come to an end. The WBCA President's Cup Golf Tournament Sponsored by Vantage Bank will conclude the festivities Saturday.
The air show saw hundreds of Laredoans lined up along the streets. Meanwhile, newcomers stated they greatly enjoyed the event while past attendees explained they were thrilled at the lineup.
"This is the event that I wait for every February for," said local Alejandro Gutierrez. "I like the fact that it is early but not that early, and also you get to enjoy time with the family, some drinks and watch some very amazing pilots do a lot of nice stuff. It is an event that everyone should at least enjoy once."
Gutierrez also said that he really enjoyed the event being conducted a week after the big parade and other festivities, as it allowed more people to come out to enjoy it instead of having so many events occurring all at once.
"I think it's the first time I've seen them arrange the schedule this way, or at least the first time in which I attended the holiday in such a way, but I really loved it," Gutierrez said. "I am sure it provided the pilots more time to also get to know the people and the children who attended the event, as more families could come."
One of those pilots was Major Cochlin, who stood next to his F-16. The instructor pilot fielded questions and requests for photographs from the public.
"I think that it was a very hyped out crowd right here, and you can get everybody hyped up about aviation as well and everything that it has to do with it," Cochlin said. "It is very good that we had military partners and everybody else here. It was also very nice to embed with the local community and kind of get them to see all the things that make aviation happen. It also helps interact a lot with the aviation enthusiasts."
Cochlin was glad that he saw a lot of cooperation between the various branches of the military, from the Air Force to the Army and others including the Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Rangers, Webb County Sheriff's Department, the Laredo Police Department, the Laredo Fire Department and others.
For many families at the air show on Sunday, it was their first time attending. Among them was Gustavo Gamez and his family, as they took pictures with Cochlin and enjoyed the experience.
"We came to this event because there really are not a lot of places to go out here in Laredo during the weekends as a family, and this was a very great thing to attend. It was great to come out with all of the children," Gamez said. "One thing I really liked was that the weather was pretty decent throughout the day to enjoy a day outside."
Gamez said he really enjoyed seeing all of the planes in such close proximity, as he never imagined how some were so big while others were smaller. He said it is an event he wishes his family attends more in the future.
Valeria Perez was also a first-time visitor to the air show. She said that she was delighted with everything going on.
"Honestly, I just thought people would sit down and watch the planes, but I really like that there is a festive atmosphere, there is great food and drinks, and also many people are just saying hi to each other," Perez said. "You see people you haven't seen in years now with their families and everybody just having a good time. I will definitely be returning as well."
Cochlin told the Gamez family and others several fun facts about the F-16 he was showcasing, including the fact that the plane was painted with a Vietnam paint scheme. He said it is painted in this fashion to pay homage to Vietnam-era service members.
According to Cochlin, this was the first time he had attended the WBCA's event, but he has worked with various air shows to help educate the public about the importance of aviation. He said he would like to return to Laredo for next year's event if possible.
"I have only been in Laredo about 12 hours but feel that the people here are so great, as the people are very welcoming," he said. "I would absolutely return back to Laredo. We are only two hours away — we are from San Antonio, and the Laredo airfield is one of our primary air bases, so it's always good to come and actually see the tower folks, the FAA and others, as all of this interaction allows us to go and feed that relationship."
Gutierrez said newcomers to the show will discover a want to return in the future, especially if they bring their children.
"It is an event for everyone and one that Washington would not have imagined, as there were no planes during his time," Gutierrez joked. "However, he would have loved to see how the community all comes out in great spirits to celebrate the country's military and show their delight at seeing how they can use these machines of war for something positive and beautiful as well."
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