US Army Golden Knights parachute team. Atlantic City Air Show Thunder over The Boardwalk. Wednesday Aug. 17, 2011. (Dale Gerhard/Press of Atlantic City)

Dale Gerhard

Federal budget cuts have caused the U.S. Army Golden Knights to cancel their appearance at the Atlantic City Airshow in June.

Joe Kelly, president of the Greater Atlantic City Chamber, said the chamber was told of the cancelation Tuesday but has decided to move forward with the airshow. It will instead focus on booking more commercial acts — a decision that will likely increase the costs of putting on the show.

The military parachute team was the only major military team performance planned for the June 26 show. It will mark the first time since the show’s modern revival a decade ago that the lineup will not include any military demonstration teams.

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“These things are out of our control,” Kelly said. “We’ve decided that we are definitely committed to doing a show. We had a ‘what-if’ plan in place, and together with our airboss, we’re identifying commercial acts that can come in and bridge the gap.”

The problem is not solely Atlantic City’s. The parachute team has canceled all of its appearances this year, said airshow boss David Schultz, whose company coordinates the resort’s show and handles dozens of other shows throughout the country.

Federal budget cuts known as the sequester that went into place earlier this month have halted non-essential flying, and thus airshow performances, for the Golden Knights and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. The U.S. Navy Blue Angels have canceled some airshow appearances with many more on the chopping block.

Atlantic City organizers confirmed in December that they were unable to book the Thunderbirds, also a first in the show’s history. Since then, officials have focused on revamping the lineup. The SkyHawks, a Canadian military parachute team based in Trenton, Ontario, is currently the only confirmed performance for Atlantic City’s show.

The cancellations are costly disappointments: Top military acts such as the Thunderbirds bill about $6,000 a day, but private acts can more than triple that cost, coming in closer to $20,000 a performance, organizers have said. The cost is less, Kelly said, when the commercial acts are subsidized, as is the case with teams such as the GEICO Skytypers, an aerobatic team of six vintage World War II airplanes.

“Our strength is that we’ve always had some large commercial acts and we have large attendance, so we’re in a good position to approach more commercial performers,” Kelly said, adding that if federal budget constraints end up allowing for some flyby demonstrations that will only be an added bonus.

With a more expensive show in the works, Kelly said the chamber will likely look to additional contributions from businesses to help with the bill, but he declined to discuss specifics about the finances for this year’s show.

Past shows typically cost about $1 million to put on, but the majority of those expenses are covered through in-kind donations from the show’s sponsors. Volunteers staff the event; businesses donate food for the volunteers; and all of the performers’ hotel stays are covered. Another $150,000 to $200,000 has covered booking the acts as well as the services of David Schultz Airshows, which produces, coordinates and emcees the show.

This year, the airshow also moves from an August date up to a Wednesday in June — a move organizers hope will help to kick off the summer season. Kelly said that while the show lineup may differ, the chamber hopes to entice more people to stay for a prolonged period of time with events every day from Sunday through Thursday.

An armed forces parade, which began in 2011, will take place the Monday before the airshow, and show practice will take place on Tuesday. The chamber is working in partership with the Atlantic City Alliance on the additional programming, he said.

Jeff Guaracino, a spokesman for the alliance, said the organization expects to announce plans next month for programming in keeping with a patriotic theme.

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Follow Jennifer Bogdan on Twitter @ACPressJennifer


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