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11K fans watch high-flying Blue Angels thunder over Buffalo's Outer Harbor

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Thunder Air Show
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Saturday's Thunder Air Show over Buffalo's waterfront was cut short due to "low cloud cover," but it was a picture-perfect performance Sunday.

State tourism officials said more than 11,000 spectators from around the U.S and Canada came to witness the high-flying precision acrobatics of the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels six tactical fighter jets.

It was a sold-out show featuring a range of aircraft, including a Royal Canadian Air Force C-F-18 fighter jet, World War Two vintage P-51 Mustangs and a U.S. Air Force C-5 Galaxy Transport, one of the largest aircrafts in the world. Narration was provided at 91.9 FM.

“There is no doubt that the excitement of the air show brought a new energy and introduced more people to our wonderful waterfront,” said Robert Gioia, chairman of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation.

It was also a first-time visit to Buffalo's Outer Harbor. Residents in the surrounding communities reported hearing the loud-flying jets over their homes in recent days as the pilots practiced.

The show brought air show enthusiasts and newfound fans alike. Attendance also helped boost area hotels, restaurants and shopping.

Buffalo Waterfront Management Group partner The Travel Team reported discounted hotel packages were very popular for air show fans at downtown hotels and many visitors were pleased by the shopping, food and activity options they experienced in the city.

“State Parks is proud to be a part of the excitement on the Outer Harbor and the airshow certainly sets the stage for many more activities and events,” said Mark Mistretta, western district director for New York State Parks.

Many social media posts shared disappointment about the abbreviated Saturday show.

"We drove up from Corning and cannot go tomorrow or we SO would," said Samantha Hall Barto, whose sentiment was common. "Obviously safety is priority, but this event could’ve been handled better. Traffic getting in was terrible (especially seeing the number of cars there after attending concerts in the past with much much more), communication was terrible. I understand weather is always an issue, but when no one knows what’s going on and waiting and looking for updates with no information it is frustrating."

Hall Barto wondered when she would receive her refund, as did other ticket holders.

Others were in awe.

"Great job," said Diane Shepard. "Thank you for doing this for Western New York. We had a great time today and hope all of the pilots had a great time flying for all of us. It was a great venue."

This weekend's air show usually occurs at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Base and is one of the largest in the country. It had to be canceled due to COVID-19, but base officials figured out how to bring it to Buffalo.

“Moving such a complex event from the airport to the waterfront in such a short period of time is unprecedented," said John Cudahy, president and CEO of the International Council of Air Shows. "I’ve been in this job for nearly a quarter century and I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s a testament to the base’s commitment to the Buffalo/Niagara community.”

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