Can private funding save Jacksonville Air Show?

Car dealer says he'd be willing to try to save show; Navy says it can't accept funds

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - With nearly a quarter-million visitors hitting Naval Air Station Jacksonville during the Air Show each year, the show's cancellation this October will be felt.

One local car dealer says he, along with others, would be willing to try to save the show, but that idea will be very hard to land.

The Jacksonville Air Show costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to put on. Canceling it is one way the Navy is saving money this year.

There's been all types of reaction from people disappointed that the traditional show has been grounded. Sen. Bill Nelson lays the blame on partisan politics.

"You are seeing the consequences again, another reminder of the ideological approach to trying to govern, saying it's going to be my way or no way," Nelson said.

Jack Hanania, who owns several Westside car dealerships, says he would like to work with other businesses to try to save the show. He says it would be a way to honor the Navy.

"That is one of the ways we could thank them for what they do for us," Hanania said. "And so we were brainstorming this morning with our people. The question came up, would there be any interest, and I said, 'Sure, we would love to be part of it if there was some interest from the private sector. And I don't know if this could be pulled off, but if there is a way we would do our part?'"

Mayor Alvin Brown heard of that plan and was very excited. The city has budgeted thousand of dollars for the event as well, and he thinks this would show there is a committment.

"So I know there is a big interest for the show, and my folks are going to be talking to people, and I believe this is a great opportunity for the private sector," Brown said. "I believe in the public-private partnership and the private sector investing in something like this. God bless them. That is what makes our city great. We have a strong business community, and we will see what happens."

However, NAS Jacksonville Commanding Officer Capt. Bob Sanders issued this statement Friday:

"The fact that members of the Jacksonville community would consider raising money to hold the air show is amazing. It is further proof of the love this area has for the Navy and the air show. Unfortunately, it's not as simple as donating to a cause. Costs connected with an air show are paid through a variety of government appropriated and non-appropriated funds. While we appreciate the gesture, we cannot legally accept funds for this purpose."

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