Snowbirds from up North are coming to Rome, Ga. — but they won't be RV-driving retirees seeking warmer weather.
The Canadian Forces Snowbirds will scream overhead this weekend in jets at the Richard B. Russell Airport as the star attraction of the Wings Over North Georgia Air Show.
"They are one of three military jet teams in North America," event spokesman Matt Giljahn said. "They have nine aircraft that fly together."
This is the first Wings Over North Georgia, and organizers expect to attract 50,000 visitors to the three-day event that begins Friday evening with 45 minutes of twilight aeronautics followed by a concert by country music singer Aaron Tippin.
Saturday and Sunday will feature stunts and speed from 15 performers, including a barrel-racing helicopter, a glider piloted by a man whose legs were paralyzed in a glider accident, parachutists jumping from a World War II-era troop transport plane, a drag racer powered by a 10,000-horsepower jet engine and planes ranging from biplanes to military jets.
"We've never had a jet demonstration before," airport manager Mike Mathews said.
Advance tickets cost $13 for adults and $10 for youths age 11 to 17. At the gate, tickets cost $18 for adults and $15 for youths age 11 to 17. Kids 10 and under get in free. Numerous upgrade packages get ticket-holders closer to the airstrip. See wingsovernorthgeorgia.com for details.
Parking is at Rome Braves Stadium at 755 Braves Blvd. and costs $10 per car, truck or SUV and $30 per bus or recreational vehicle. A shuttle bus takes visitors to and from the airport.
Another air show was held from 2006 to 2008 at the Rome airport. It attracted about 30,000 people the first year, Mathews said, then attendance dwindled to about 15,000 in its final year after the economic downturn.
Wings Over North Georgia is "definitely bigger," he said.
The event is the first show put on by JLC AirShow Management, a Rome-based business with four managing partners, including John Cowman, who used to put on military air shows at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Ga., before he retired, Mathews said.
"So they have experience," he said. "These guys are first class. They're safe. That's my No. 1 concern as airport manager."
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.