FARGO – Every other year, Don Votava and his wife, Darlyne take the nearly two-hour trip here from their home in Warren, Minn., to see the Fargo AirSho.
They were disappointed in 2013, when what would have been the show's 12th production was canceled. But it was all smiles and necks craned upward Saturday, as the AirSho made a roaring comeback after a four-year lull.
"I sure hope they can keep this up," Don Votava said.
The show's co-chairman Darrol Schroeder estimated that the crowd at Hector International Airport reached more than 15,000 by about 1 p.m., and he expected it to grow later during the featured performance from the Blue Angels, the Navy's team of high-flying stunt pilots.
The show missed a year in 2013 when the Blue Angels were grounded temporarily due to an impasse over the federal budget. That just built the anticipation for some AirSho fans.
Votava, like many others at the show Saturday, said it's a swelling of patriotism that attracts to the demonstration of airborne prowess.
"You kind of get to see what the guys had to go through there to get to where we are today," he said.
The show's crowd gawked as small planes tumbled and twirled through the sky, nearly scraping the ground, but one of the most striking performances came from the AV-8B Harrier II jet.
The Harrier barrelled through the sky, bringing most in the crowd to their feet to watch it hover above ground-the jet's principal feature.
Schroeder said one of his favorite performances is a crowd-pleasing comedy act from Kent Pietsch in which he tumbles through the sky and flies down to land on top of a trailer or truck.
"His is a lot of fun," Schroeder said. "But they're all great, they're all wonderful or they wouldn't be here."
Jane Dettloff, of Plymouth, Minn., and Karen Stern, of Willmar, Minn., said they came to the show with their husbands for a second time because of their love of the military.
"It just restores faith in this country," Stern said. "We're just so excited."
The production was dedicated to former air performer Jim "Fang" Maroney, who died in plane crash in March 2014 while flying to a show in Florida.
Maroney's first aerobatics plane, Lil' Toot, made an appearance before the show in his honor. It was the first Fargo AirSho without Maroney being one of the featured pilots.
His wife, Susan, attended Saturday and said it would be her last air show.
"It gets to be too hard," she said. "But this is a beautiful show and these are such high-quality people here."
If you go
Where: Hector International Airport, 2801 32nd Ave. N., Fargo
When: Gates open at 9 a.m. and the show runs from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Tickets: Admission at gate is $30 for adults, $15 for kids 11 to 17 years old and free for kids ages 10 and younger.
Highlights: The U.S. Navy Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Team top off a total of nine acts, including the U.S. Navy Parachute Team "The Leap Frogs" and an appearance from the AV-8B HARRIER II.