Doing an Air Show...Like a Pro (Part 2)
It’s approaching summer, which for many of us around Air Force bases means that it’s approaching Air Show season. I thought when I moved out of California my "sunburned in a parking lot" days were over - I was young! I didn't realize that Sexy Air Force Guys are often Secret Airplane Nerds. I was naive!
I've been to around 50 air shows in the last 17 years - not so much for a fan, but it's a lot for somebody that isn't really into it. So, I have a lot of tips for other people who want to try and have fun at an airshow even though they'd rather be at home eating cheesecake.
There are three big bullet points, and I'm going to explore them in two different posts.
- Do your research. The more you know about something, the more you will be interested in it, the more you will engage in it, and the more opportunities will be opened up.
- Commit to doing it "as if" you loved it. Things might get be hokey and boring - and if you go into it with that attitude, you will certainly be proved right.
- Be prepared. There are a lot of accoutrements that will make your day a lot more enjoyable and will enable you to appreciate the atmosphere and entertainment.
As the cutesy meme goes, "Dress for the Life You Want to Have." In this case, pack for the kind of day you want to have because nothing will make you more miserable faster than bad packing.
THE SUN: YOUR ENEMY
Air shows take place on tarmac near the runways, deep into the bowels of the airport. There is very little shade and a lot of unrelenting exposure. So take your sunscreen seriously, even if you’re Mexican and love to rub it in everyone’s face how you never get burned. The sun sees all, hears all, and it doesn't take your hubris lightly.
Use maximum sunscreen. Steal it from family members if you have to. When you dry off out the shower, go ahead and use an SPF lotion all over your body, because the sun can burn you through your clothes. Focus on the face, head, and shoulders and don't forget to layer - use the moisturizer with spf, the lipstick with pigment, and take the spray sunscreen with you for hourly applications. Sorry, I know it’s gross. But not as gross as being stuck in the sun, sweating and burning.
How you dress seriously affects the quality of your time - out on the tarmac it can get very miserable very quickly. The worst case scenario is one you see a lot of - very cute girls wearing light-colored suede high-heel sandals and short skirts. They look awesome entering the gate and it's hard not to feel schleppy. However, a few hours later the wind, dirt, portapotties, and general grime takes its toll and there are so many ruined shoes and swollen feet. It's a bummer. Also, with a short skirt, you’ll spend the whole time awkwardly holding it down from the winds, and those exposed legs usually mean a sunburn.
You want layers of light clothes - the most successful outfits were variation of: flat shoes (Keds, sneakers, flip-flops, ballerina slippers) and legs that are covered - if you’re wearing a dress or tunic, thin leggings are perfect - they’re light, but they keep your skin covered. A light tunic, long t-shirt, flouncy dress - perfect. The looser and lighter the better. Finally, even if it’s a jillion degrees, take the tissue-thinnest long-sleeved cardigan available. You want it light and loose to let the heat out, but full coverage to block the sun. Since your hair will probably blow all over the place, fixing it up in a bun or braids is smart - and don’t forget that you’ll be wearing it in a hat most of the time.
FOOD & WATER
Air shows have turned into county fairs - funnel cakes, deep fried Oreos, corn dogs. Remember how you balked at the $15 VIP parking pass? Well now you’re about to spend $60 on lunch for 4, if you’re lucky. Sub sandwiches and burgers are around $9-13, with drinks around $4. You want dessert? You might as well cash in that 401k on the way.
So bring your own subs, salads, nuts, peanut butter and vegetables, things that fill you up - and go ahead and take whatever decadent treat because even if you bring literal filet mignon it will be cheaper than the garbage they have on-site.
Just remember - most airshows don't allow coolers so skip the mayonnaise.
If you hate packing food, then don’t forget to bring lots of cash - at a recent airshow, the ATM was charging $4 for every $20 withdrawal.
The best investment I made in enjoying airshows (maybe life?) was buying a decent camera. It gives you something to focus on when you’re bored and it gives you a purpose. You might not like watching Migs but trying to get a decent photo of one is so challenging it will definitely keep you entertained. It also opens up membership into the line of old guys with telephoto lenses who line up at the fences. They can usually give you really good photography tips and are really glad to share their knowledge…and their beers.
You have to bring a cool camp chair. There are some really fantastic ones on the market, a lot have shade roofs that pull out and a sheath that has lots of pockets.
If you have kids, a sturdy blanket is great to bring for the pavement. It will keep them cool and clean and provide a place for their toys and a place to spread out. This year I saw a family of geniuses who used the blanket to set up a rubber-band bracelet station. Those kids were the most popular kids at the event!
My kids are a little too old for toys, but I did let them bring their Kindles and they spent every minute of downtime (and there is a lot of downtime) reading lists of yo mama jokes from a book they downloaded. As irritating as it was to be gold that in essence I’m so fat that…it was a lot better than watching them get antsy and start poking each other.
You’re going to be using a portapotty today, and while most have improved exponentially, they’re not great. Take hand sanitzer, maybe a little tiny wet wipe packet - it gets pretty swampy on the tarmac, maybe you like a little zing while cleaning up? I don’t judge. Deodorant isn’t a bad idea either!
In closing, a little bit of research and a thoughtful packing list can make all the different between a horrible day on the pavement and a neutral-to-actually-kind-of-fun day at the airshow!