GarCo to celebrate new runway, upgrades with Rifle air show
To celebrate $47 million in upgrades to the Garfield County Regional Airport in Rifle, the county is putting on a free $230,000 party for the public next weekend in the form of an air show.
Despite some debate over funding for the event, there’s no debating it will make for a fun-packed two days for the public.
The air show, scheduled Friday and Saturday, is in its sixth year, and the last show drew an estimated 15,000 people. The show took a one-year hiatus last summer because the airport was closed to allow for completion of a project in which the runway was realigned and made more level, with increased safety zones.
The Federal Aviation Administration spent some $39 million on the runway and related projects, while the county spent $7.5 million on hangar, water-system and other projects. The state contributed $1.5 million to the airport’s improvement.
The airport reopened in November, and county commissioners decided to celebrate the reopening by offering what airport manager Brian Condie said is “a signature event that’s free to the public.”
“We thought, what a great way to celebrate the new runway,” he said.
The show will feature such offerings as the Golden Knights U.S. Army Parachute Team, the smoke-trailing planes of the Matt Younkin Airshow, a night show Friday, a pyrotechnical display, and a jet-engine-powered school bus that will tear down the runway at 365 mph.
There also will be an inflatable play area for kids, food booths, and on Saturday, a Red, White & Loud concert featuring country music star Aaron Tippin. Plane rides will be available for purchase.
Condie said people should bring chairs, including for the concert. More information on the show is at http://www.rifleairport.com/index.aspx.
The show has drawn flak from some quarters because of the county economic-development funds being spent on it. One county resident, Carl McWilliams, said bringing in what he called a “flying circus” is entertainment, not economic development.
“As soon as that circus is over the money is gone, and nothing will happen,” he said.
County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said he wasn’t yet in office when the show funds were budgeted, but he thinks the idea is to show the public “one of the probably best regional airports in the state.” He said he expects there to be future discussion by commissioners about whether it will be appropriate to continue using economic-development funds for the show.