Skyfest brings more than thrills to the area
by Eric Johnson
The 20th Annual Boshears Skyfest promises to wow audiences with its daredevil flight demonstrations and fiery ground performances, but the popular air show wasn’t always so dramatic. Begun as a simple fly-in to celebrate the legendary Boshears Brothers, Augusta’s first family of aviation, it grew over time into one of the most recognized air shows in the region, thanks in large part to the guidance of Brad Kyzer.
Kyzer, a licensed pilot for 40 years, has been in charge of the air show for the last 11.
“When I got involved in the committee, I ended up being chairman, and that’s one of those jobs you have to die to get out of,” he says. “Fortunately, I haven’t done that yet.”
While some of the changes, like the addition of more dramatic acts, are unmistakable, others are much easier to overlook, though certainly no less central to the spirit of the show itself.
Ultimately, though, the show has always been a celebration of aviation and its history in Augusta.
That history goes back nearly to the dawn of aviation. The Wright brothers had a winter flying field down around Sand Bar Ferry not too long after they figured out how to fly, and the Army Air Corps had their field out there where they trained their pilots long before WWII. In fact, Hap Arnold, the pilot who ended up commanding all Army Air Forces in WWII, got his wings in Augusta. So, too, did members of Doolittle’s Tokyo Raiders, who flew B-25 medium bombers off the deck of the USS Hornet in the first U.S. air strike on the Japanese homeland.
During WWII, both Daniel Field and Bush Field played a part in military aviation.
Besides highlighting the history, the show has evolved into something very community minded.
“We’ve tried to broaden it to be really inclusive,” Kyzer says. “We started giving kids 12 and under a free ticket and encouraging them to come because we wanted the kids in this area who couldn’t otherwise get to see an air show or be involved in aviation or know about it to come out regardless of their economic means.”
Kyzer is proud of the diversity he sees at the show these days. Many, he knows, would not be able to see an air show if it wasn’t affordably in their own hometown.
Another part of the change is the scholarship program.
“We’ve really tried to encourage aviation in the community,” he says. “We give three scholarships a year for young people between the ages of 16 and 20 to begin earning their license, and if they begin and show some passion for it and do what they’re supposed to do, we go ahead and fund them to get a private pilot’s license.”
These days, getting a private pilot’s license can run around $6,000. Previous winners have gone on to fly in the military or have moved into commercial flying jobs.
According to Tony Gay, who handles much of the operations and logistics for the show and who, like Kyzer, is a past Aviator of the Year recipient, the emphasis on youth extends to the running of the show itself. Boy Scouts are allowed to camp at the show in exchange for keeping the grounds clean, and the Youth Challenge out of Fort Gordon helps set the field up and then tear it down.
“Youth Challenge helps us, and for that they get to be our guests at the show on Sundays,” Kyzer says. “That’s a really good partnership that helps us and gives them an opportunity to do some things, too.”
They also work with the Wounded Warrior Project. Each air show Sunday, the Wounded Warriors are honored in the VIP tent as the guests of honor.
Despite the help and the volunteers, the show isn’t easy to put on. According to Gay, it’s a yearlong process.
“We have the airs show in October,” he says. “Then we usually take November off and meet in December for a debrief, and from there, we start meeting once a month in January until the next air show.”
Boshears Skyfest 2012
October 20 and 21 | $15 in advance, $18 at the gate
boshearsskyfest.orgYou Might Also Like: