Air show brings smiles to more than crowd

Sea and Sky Spectacular returns to Jacksonville Beach this year

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. - After a two-year absence, one of Jacksonville's largest spectator events returns to Jacksonville Beach, and nearby businesses couldn't be happier about it.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to visit the beaches on Saturday and Sunday to see the Sea and Sky Spectacular -- an even that has many business owners looking forward to a big boost.

While the official shows of aerial acrobatics, parachute teams and the Navy's Blue Angels take place on the weekend, people began lining the beach Friday hoping to catch a glimpse of the rehearsal flights.

"What we do is very exciting and people are excited about," said Lt. Mark Tedrow, a Blue Angles pilot, said Friday. "Really, our job is to just get people fired up about aviation."

And the Blue Angels draws big crowds every time they come.  Traffic and parking were already in short supply on Friday.  All day Saturday and Sunday, shuttles will run between the parking lots at Sawgrass used for The Players tournament.  Parking there costs $20.

"There's no public parking available here right now, and that's why we're asking people to please use those shuttles," said Cmdr. Pat Dooley of the Jacksonville Beach police. "That's the cleanest and easiest way to get in and of the beaches this weekend."

Authorities say if the $20 parking is too pricey, catch a city bus from town.

Robert Frazier lives in Jacksonville, but his family decided to get a room to get a good view of the show.

"It just makes it so much easier to be here and not have to go anywhere. You can actually relax and enjoy," Frazier said Friday while snapping pictures from the Courtyard Marriott.. "If you can afford the room, I suggest coming and doing it."

Many hotels along the beach expect to be full this weekend, making it one of their best weekends of the year.

"Just a lot of demand; a definite increase," said Alex Reitter, general manager of the Courtyard Marriott. "Everyone wants an oceanfront room."

Whether spectators are spending the night at the beach or not, they're eating and drinking in local restaurants. Organizers expect restaurants will serve to 100,000 people a day.

Keith Doherty, owner of Lynch's Pub, says it's potential for new customers and two great days of business.

"You could equate it to as maybe fitting an extra week's business into one weekend," Doherty said. "We look forward to the air show, we missed it on location last year, so it's good to have it back. This is the first time in three years we've had it, and I wish we could have it every single year."

Some of the business owners say business started picking up Friday, and the show hasn't even started. While the center of the show is at 5th Avenue North -- where there will be ground exhibits and street venders -- the air show can viewed from Mayport to Ponte Vedra Beach.

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