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Home News Prairie Heritage Air Show Society grounded for final time

Prairie Heritage Air Show Society grounded for final time

Prairie Heritage Air Show Society grounded for final time

Seven years after their last major event, the Prairie Heritage Air Show Society has ceased operations.

The society distributed all their remaining funds to the Prince Albert Historical Society on March 9. Jon Hopper, the society’s last president, said it was a difficult decision to wind things down, but also an unavoidable one.

“It’s unfortunate we had to shut down, but it was the only way we could see going forward right now,” Hopper explained. “None of us are getting any younger, and there were other priorities in our lives.”

Hopper was one of just five remaining society members when they decided to end operations. While finding volunteers to work during the show was never a problem, getting people involved as organizers proved difficult.

Hopper said that’s also big part of why they shut down. Many organizing committee members stepped away after the 2012 show, and were never really replaced.

“When the 2018 air show was organized, there were around 18 or more people who, over the course of about two years, organized that air show,” he explained.

“After that, a lot of people who were involved in the original organization dropped off for various reasons—other interests and stuff like that—so in the end we were down to five people. People get busy … and then the problem was, after that, trying to approach people … and of course a lot of people said no.”

Rising costs, lack of facilities, and COVID-19 also played a part in the air show’s demise. Hopper said the main hanger they used to store aircraft hasn’t been replaced after burning down. Without a hanger, the air show would have to pay insurance costs to cover visiting planes. That’s on top of the insurance they already pay to protect air show patrons in case of an accident.

With air show costs already sitting at between $250,000 and $300,000, Hopper said it wasn’t realistic to increase their budget.

Originally, organizers planned to follow up the 2015 show with another in 2017. When that effort fizzled out due to lack of resources, Hopper and the society remained positive they could organize something in the future. Then COVID arrived.

Although organizing the show made for some long days and nights, Hopper enjoyed the challenge. He said working with the people, whether it’s volunteers, ground crews, or fellow-organizing committee members will always be a highlight.

“You need a good two years to get something organized, so it’s a lot of planning,” he said. “It’s a lot of work, (and) we did enjoy ourselves, but it got to the point where it was a lot of time, especially as you got closer and closer and closer to the (start date).

“I think what I’m going to miss is dealing with people who put on the show,” he added. “Organizing was a lot of work, but we also had a lot of fun doing it.

The Prairie Heritage Air Show Society donated their remaining funds to the Prince Albert Historical Society. Hopper said the group was one of two major supporters when the air show first began in 2012.

Organizers formed the air show society afterwards, and passed a bylaw requiring the society to donate all funds to the historical museum if they shut down.

When asked if Prince Albert will ever have another air show again, Hopper said it’s impossible to say for sure. However, if there is one, he said he’s happy to help organize it again.

“Maybe someday somebody will start something up again, and I’m sure that those of us who were involved in the past organization, we’d be willing to come out and give a hand if it worked out.”