This year, the St. Thomas airshow is doing something new, no public parking on site. Instead you can park at parking elsewhere and then ride a bus to and from the air show. There is also a ban on hard sided coolers. Let me break down how the changes may impact the experience in my view.
In previous years, parking at the site was permitted. Yes, it meant long line ups of cars, often stretching more than a mile. Yes, the field in which cars parked was sometimes mud filled. Yes, getting out was just as difficult as getting in. On the plus side, the last time we attended, it rained for the first few hours so we were able to shelter in our car, have a little picnic with the sandwiches and chips which we had packed into a hard sided cooler in our trunk and had fun. We were also able to store our camp chairs in the car until we needed them later in the day. Having seen the Snowbirds several times, we leave before they start, therefore avoiding the rush.
To me, the positives far outweigh the negatives. Just because we brought a picnic didn’t mean we didn’t buy hot food on site. As usual the smell of the food is the greatest advertisement for the product. We were lucky last time that while a couple of the flying displays were canceled, there were less crowds and therefore easier to get around. It makes more sense to have vehicles on site for all the reasons listed above.
If these new rules had been in force last time, we would have had to carry around four camp chairs as well as a soft sided cooler bag, and a camera until it was time to sit down. I am not sure about you but carrying camp chair for a couple of hours is not something I wish to partake in. For a family of four with two small children, it makes it a little difficult to delegate responsibility. We also would have been soaked when the heavens opened. No, I don’t think we would have enjoyed the last air show half as much as we did if this had happened.
Let me look at the money for a moment (follow the money). If I was to be cynical, which of course is not my nature, I would suggest that this is more of a cash grab than anything else. Not only do you have to pay an extra five dollars for the park and ride per vehicle (yes I know the buses have to be hired but still), more people will be put off bringing their own food, and therefore are forced to buy all their food on site.
What if the reasoning for the change is that the traffic congestion is too much. Well, rather than having hundreds of cars waiting in line to leave, you will be faced with thousands of people, carrying camp chairs and coolers, lining up for busing. I hope it isn’t raining otherwise there may be some upset folk. At least when sitting in cars you are comfortable and dry. Not only will there be a delay getting from the air show but once the visitors arrive at the designated parking area, there will likely be a queue of cars looking to leave so it will probably take longer for visitors to the air show to leave than usual.
Don’t get me wrong, I love air shows and have since I was a small child. I have a scar on the back of my head from when I was a child watching an air show and while watching a plane fly overhead, I fell backwards smacking my head on a rock. Since moving to Canada I have not missed a single St. Thomas air show, plus I used to attend the shows in London. When I was a child, my dad made Airfix model planes and hung them from my bedroom ceiling, a tradition that I have followed with my children. My favourite planes will be in attendance this year. A DC-3 Dakota, a Catalina, A-10 gunships, but due to the new rules and the simple difficulty caused by them, my family and I will not.