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Most sought-after air show act in U.S. cancels OC dates

(April 12, 2013) Despite OC Air Show’s loss of its headline performers, 2013 is shaping up to be the year that could solidify the show’s position with both the aeronautical performance industry and the Town of Ocean City.

Mayor Rick Meehan informed the public at this week’s City Council meeting that the Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy’s jet performance team and likely the most sought after air show act in the nation, have indeed cancelled their appearance at the June 8-9 event in Ocean City.

“It’s unfortunate, but I don’t think it puts an end to our air show,” Meehan said. “They’re working on some additional acts and possibilities … although the Blue Angels are difficult to replace.”

This will be the sixth year for the OC Air Show, a promotion of event organizer B. Lilley Productions that resort government supports both financially and in-kind. Although 2013 was slated to be the first appearance of the Blue Angels, most of the show’s headline acts over the years have been military teams, including the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division “Screaming Eagles” parachute squad.

But with the automatic spending cuts of the federal sequestration mandate largely hitting home on defense programs, the OC Air Show – as well as shows around the county – will now have to make do without military performers.

Despite the setback, B. Lilley Productions head Bryan Lilley said he is confident in having “the best all-civilian lineup that you can put together.” A new lead act has been tentatively found, he said.

“I can’t say anything specific yet, because we don’t have the new headliner officially confirmed,” he said. “All I can say is that it has an afterburner.”

But possibility even more of a boon – at least to the resort’s economy – is the fact that sequestration appears to have taken the floor out from under the air show industry as a whole, leaving the Ocean City event as one of the only shows still slated to happen in 2013.

“The last time I came to the City Council, I had estimated that six out of 10 air shows would be cancelling this year,” Lilley said. “It now looks like that figure is closer to nine out of ten.”

“As far as I know … I don’t see any other air show in the Delaware-Maryland-Virginia area. I think that’s very significant for us.”

Also significant is that the air show will now have one of its own organizers coordinating events for the city as a whole. Frank Miller, who serves as general manager for Lilley’s shows in Ocean City and Florida, has been hired as the city’s new head of special events, filling the shoes of the recently retired John “Sully” Sullivan. Miller starts at the end of month.

“Frank will be our point of contact with the town … probably in the same respect as the situation we had with Sully,” Lilley said.


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