“As far as we know, it’s never happened before,” said Kevin Elliot, Great Pacific Air Show director, referring to their back to back “Show Site of the Year” awards from the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. The event won the award in both 2018 and 2019 and is once again hosting the Thunderbirds in 2020. On top of that, last year’s addition of the Thunderbirds to the schedule happened just three weeks prior to the event, due to a last-minute show site cancellation in Puerto Rico.
Growing up flying remote control aircraft, Elliot has always had an interest in aviation, but — until 2018 — was never involved in air shows. The owner of an event promotion business, he is no stranger to attracting audiences, but familiarizing himself with the unique aspects of the air show business has certainly been a new challenge for him. Of the opportunity to run an air show, Elliot recalled, “You’re supposed to do something you’re passionate about, and I’ve always loved aviation, so why don’t I take this on?”
Elliot attributes much of the current success of the event in Huntington Beach to thinking differently about air shows. “It’s a community gathering – a celebration of your friends, family and culture,” he remarked. Combining an air show with live entertainment, unique acts, and other ground activations has helped to grow the show over the last two years.
Performers and their families have been able to interact with outreach programs the show has partnered with. One of those programs is Operation Surf, an organization that pairs veterans with surfing to help them build confidence and healing.
The Great Pacific Air Show has been largely marketed and designed to appeal to the non-traditional air show goers. “We are trying not to do things just because that’s the way they’ve always been done,” said Elliot.