WWII Museum set for Air, Sea and Land Festival in October
By Claire Byun
With a brand new name and a slew of new activities, the National World War II Museum’s fourth annual air show is gearing up for takeoff.
Dubbed the second biggest WWII air show in the country, the annual event features more than 25 vintage WWII-era aircrafts that both perform aerial acrobatics and serve as static displays, along with tours of the country’s only surviving WWII Patrol Torpedo Boat. The event, scheduled to run from Friday, Oct. 27 to Sunday, Oct. 29, will be held across 15 acres of the Lakefront Airport and will feature a whole host of 1940s-era fashion, automobiles, aircrafts, and museum collections.
Formerly known as the WWII AirPower Expo, this year’s event even has a new name: The WWII Air, Sea and Land Festival. The name change includes the tour of the Patrol Torpedo Boat, PT-305 – unlike years past – and is meant to make the whole weekend more inclusive for everyone.
“There’s things people in New Orleans come to expect from a festival, and that’s good food and good music,” said Tom Gibbs, special programs director with the WWII Museum. Gibbs presented a preview of this year’s festival to the Non-Flood Protection Management Authority on Thursday (Apr. 27) during their regular meeting.
“Having those will help draw in people outside of the ‘nerd’ crowd,” Gibbs said.
The air show is just one of the many events, activities, and developments that have transformed the waterfront into a thriving, successful area poised for growth. A flurry of new restaurants are already in the works this year, and the owners of Tipitina’s are working on a $12 million development of 19 acres at the South Shore Harbor Marina and former Bally’s Riverboat Casino site. [See WATERFRONT REVIVAL: Big plans abound for redevelopment all along Lake Pontchartrain.]
Gibbs said air shows rebrand themselves every few years to help keep things fresh while adding new attractions and events. This year’s event will also include a solid two-hour flying demonstration featuring every major aircraft from the war, from trainers to four-engine bombers.
The vintage aircrafts will demonstrate low-flying “dogfights” performed by historic “warbirds” every day during the festival. The demonstration will require a two-hour Total Flight Restriction at the airport, though Gibbs acknowledged the restriction would shave some profits from the airport. However, Gibbs said this type of demonstration is essential to the growth of the event.
“There will not be a time during these two hours when a plane won’t be in the air,” Gibbs said.
New activities this year include a 1940s fashion show, food truck “court”, and a Victory Parade complete with the 610 Stompers. The weekend will include a kid’s zone with a professional obstacle course – reminiscent to boot camp from the era – several living history re-enactments, interviews with WWII veterans, and performances from several singing groups.
The festival – produced in part with the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation and the Commemorative Air Force – has drawn more than 40,000 attendees over the past three years combined, including 10,000 students. This year, organizers are hoping for a total attendance of 20,000, and they are investing in marketing to help reach that goal. The Air, Sea and Land Fest’s media buy will exceed $100,000 in paid media this year, Gibbs said, as well as about $30,000 in donations from area media.
“We’re really pumping it up this year,” Gibbs told the board.
Gibbs said the museum runs the program’s plans through the Non-Flood Authority every year so officials have a vision of the event. Dawn Hebert, commissioner, said she most enjoys the air shows that can be seen by spectators sitting along Lakeview Drive.
“It really was a fun field event,” she said.
General admission tickets start at $21 and are reduced to $16 for children, students, military, seniors and museum members. WWII veterans get in for free, and all-access passes are $75 a day or $200 for the whole weekend. There’s also specials for group rates and corporate clubs.
The festival’s website goes live June 1, Gibbs said, which is where the public can find more information and purchase tickets. Information on sponsorship tiers – ranging from $2,500 to $50,000 – are also available.