MYRTLE BEACH — This seaside resort town will host its first air show in more than a decade in April, a fitting event for a resort town that was also the site of an Air Force base until 1993.
"Many bases, Air Force bases and Navy bases in lots of cities have air shows, and it's been a long history of them here at Myrtle Beach," said Buddy Styers, executive director of the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base Redevelopment Authority.
Styers, an Air Force veteran, heads the group that has overseen the redevelopment of the Grand Strand's former base. There hasn't been an air show in Myrtle Beach since the early 1990s, around the time the base closed, he said.
"The Thunderbirds used to come one year — the Air Force demonstration team, and then the Blue Angels would come the next year," he said.
That tradition will be restarted April 28-29, when the Blue Angels return to headline an air show at the Myrtle Beach International Airport.
A military site near Myrtle Beach was first opened in 1942 and served as a training ground for air troops headed to World War II. It also housed German prisoners during the war. In the 1950s, the city of Myrtle Beach donated land to the Air Force for a permanent base that operated for the next four decades.
Today, the area is the site of The Market Common, a sprawl of mixed-use development and housing subdivisions that is one of the fastest-growing sections of Myrtle Beach.
There are reminders of the area's history everywhere, including Warbird Park on Farrow Parkway, which has A-10, A-7 and F-100 aircraft on display in a public park. The installation makes the history of the area more present to visitors and locals alike, Styers said.
"People don't ride up there and sit in their car and look at airplanes," he said. "They want to get out and they want to walk underneath them and they want to touch them."
Another aerial event, the Independence Day Salute from the Shore beach flyover by vintage military aircraft on July 4, is popular among Grand Strand visitors.
Brad Dean, president of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said his group is "thrilled" to have a national air show back in Myrtle Beach.
"We anticipate the air show will attract a lot of favorable publicity and boost local tourism during a relatively slow week," Dean said.
Kirk Lovell, a spokesman for Myrtle Beach International Airport, said the show is scheduled to return in 2019.
Tickets to the show for 2018 are available at wingsovermyrtlebeach.com.