Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Let's Go to the Smoky Mountain Air Show

Let me start by saying this is in no way endorsed by the Smoky Mountain Air Show or the people who are involved. I have been asked several times recently for advice about attending the Smoky Mountain Air Show, April 16th and 17th at McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Visiting Dad, many years ago.
Because my husband is a Chief on base, many think that we have information that hasn't been given to the public. Chief probably has information that he isn't sharing, but that's part of the job. Everything I know is from the air show website, Facebook page, or television.

I can steer you to the Smoky Mountain Air Show website where you can get more information about what you can and can't take in with you, who the performers are and what is on display, and how to purchase your parking pass and this link takes you to the purchase your parking pass page.

I can give you some advice that I've learned from past shows and what I as a Mom will be packing.

I purchased a parking pass in case we couldn't get on base with Chief and because it goes to a great cause, Honor Air Knoxville. I have also donated it to family. There are few parking passes left for each day. The parking passes cost $40.00, there may be some VIP spots available which are $75.00 and there are opportunities for photographers also.

As an Air National Guard family, this is a big deal for the kids and I. Yes, Chief sees excitement like this all the time on base and during deployments. The kids and I don't see it and it's a big deal.

The past few days, I've been putting together a list of things that we need to take with us, either that morning, or that Chief needs to take with him a few days before. I guess we do have a few special privileges. We can park on base, as long as we go to work with Chief. We can't get into the Air Show gate until everyone else does. We do however, receive a special wristband that allows us to go back to his office, or the car for lunch.

As far as my past experience with air shows. It's loud, the weather may or may not cooperate, it is East Tennessee after all, and there will be tons of people, lots of food, and even more excitement.

I do have a game plan for the Air Show. Chief will be working so it will be the kids and I each day. Although, we will be among many family, friends who become family, and our military family.

We will eat a good, filling breakfast. You aren't allowed to take food or coolers in, see the prohibited items list. You can however, pack a lunch and leave it in your car, then you could walk back out to eat. Or you can purchase food on site from a vendor.

I will be packing our lunches. We will go to the car and eat, possibly in Chief's office if we are allowed. If the kids want something from a food vendor they will be responsible for paying for it. Which leads me to spending.

2000 Air Show. Before I had a  digital camera. 
I very rarely buy souvenir t-shirts, but I know the kids are going to ask. They will take their own money for anything they may want to purchase during the air show. Yes, that's how we roll.

As far as what I'm actually taking with us.

Sunscreen, even if it's cloudy you will get burnt on the tarmac, it's concrete, and a large parking lot for planes. Every kid will have their own chapstick in their pocket. While I may carry their money in my bag, they carry all of their other items.

We are going to layer. It looks like it will be in the 50's when we head out. By Air Show time it will be near 70 degrees. Wear what you're comfortable in and wear comfortable shoes. There will be a lot of walking. We may also be in matching shirts, if they still fit. At the least we will be in similar colors. Hats or baseball caps and sunglasses are also a must.

You will need ear plugs for in your ears, as well as cordless headsets, think the kind you wear to mow the lawn. Or you can stick your fingers in your ears when you need too.

Lawn chairs. You may want to label them. I have to sit. There are lots of static displays, bands, a kids area, even the Clydesdale Horses from Budweiser to check out, but at some point during the day, my feet will give out. If you have a wagon to pull the kids and chairs in you can take it in.

Michael told me last night he plans to take his binoculars. Maggie's packing a book for down time, between performances. She reads and walks, so watch out.

Don't forget your camera. Large camera bags are prohibited so for those of us who like to carry the professional camera, lenses, and flashes we may have to lighten our load. Luckily, I can fit my camera and favorite lens in a bag that is the right size, but I'm not sure I can carry it all day. If I sit it down it may disappear, so I have a decision to make.

For those with children, ID them. I know it sounds crazy, they will be on a military base, with high security, but those little guys and gals can get excited looking up and not realize how far from Mom or Dad they have wandered. Although mine are nine to fourteen, they all will have some identifying info on them. The oldest three have military ids. I will still probably place a sticker in the bottom of their shoe, with their name and our cell phone numbers on them. Sometimes in a large crowd, when they were younger, I pinned a post it note or index card in their pocket with contact info. I've "lost" kids more than once in a crowd and the panic that sets in is not fun for me, or those around me.

Once on base, stake out a good spot to set up your chairs. Then look around and choose something large, like the KC-135, the big brown hangar, the port-a-potties or something that your kid is really interested in. Make that your meeting point if you get separated. Give them an opportunity to choose where to meet, but you have the final say. Everyone in your group needs to know where to meet if someone gets lost.

Several people have asked my thoughts on taking toddlers and babies. Chief never let me take the kids to events on base when they were younger than four. It wasn't that he didn't want to show them off, but he felt that it was too loud and usually too long.

Before you pack the diaper bag, think about the following:
Can your child nap with 100,000 people and loud noises when they get tired?
Can they nap in your lap or a lawn chair?
Can you and your attitude survive 8:00 AM-5:00 PM with kids?
Will you have help at the Air Show?

These are the big things I thought about. It's a long, tiring day. As much as the kids and I are looking forward to it, the length of our days wears me out thinking about it. I know most of you won't have to get up that early, but for kids it's going to be a long day, no matter what time you get up.

If you have other advice or even questions post them below.

I can't wait to see you at the Smoky Mountain Air Show this weekend. Just a final thought.

Be patient. Be prepared and have fun!