The Chicago Air and Water Show – Beginning of the End of the Chicago Summer

In mid-August every year the roar of jets and buzz of planes over Chicago means one thing: Air and Water Show weekend!  This is a great Chicago summertime event and unlike that other big summer event, Lollapalooza, the Air and Water Show is free!  Just get over to the lake shore on the weekend and watch.  It’s the last big event of the Chicago summer before we hit Labor Day and the official end of the season and it’s one Chicagoans love gathering for.

Living in Wrigleyville during the Air and Water Show weekend is pretty cool.  Not really for the actual show itself since the neighborhood is about 8 blocks north of the main viewing area but more because on Thursday and Friday the planes are out practicing and make their turns overhead.  I don’t know if it’s because there are lots of big landmarks in the area (baseball stadium, a couple big cemeteries) but this is where the jets bank.  The Cubs fans usually get a few fly-bys if the Northsiders are playing are at home during Air Show week.  If you’ve got a rooftop deck (or know someone who does) it makes for some good lunchtime (or work from home) viewing.  On Thursday morning my friend Erik and I were driving down Sheffield on our way to a property showing when all of a sudden one of the US Navy’s Blue Angels buzzed by overhead.  The Blue Angels were the headliners for this year’s show.  Pretty cool, especially since it meant over the next 4 days we’d get to see (and hear) these guys flying around our neighborhood.

Having experienced the show before, Cheryl and I knew we really didn’t have to show up until after noon to catch the ones we really wanted to see, mainly the jets.  As one of our Navy pilot friends says about the jet engine noise “that’s the sound of freedom.”  Couldn’t agree more, especially if they’re your fighters!  Anyway, around 12:30pm Cheryl and I hopped on our bikes and rode over to the lakeshore area by Fullerton Parkway.  This is the northern edge of the “viewing area” and is a good spot since it kind of juts out and you can see down the lakeshore.  Some loudspeakers are set up there so you can hear the commentary on who’s coming and what the pilots are doing.  It’s not bad and you can always find a spot to sit down.

We got there just in time to see the F-18 Super Hornet. (At least that’s what I think it is.)  Cheryl really likes this plane.  It’s loud.  When it arrives on the scene you don’t hear the engines until he’s gone past and then the “sound of freedom” hits you.  Pretty awesome.  The pilot also does this hover thing where he hangs in the air moving forward really slowly which is really cool.  [Side Roam: A bit of background here, Cheryl’s dad is an engineer who worked on jet engines for NASA (yes a real rocket scientist!) and she’s always loved planes; so much so that she now works for an airline.  Roger, you need to come up for this next year!]

After a few stunt planes, parachutists, and other jets it was time for the main event: The Blue Angels!  Last year we had the USAF Thunderbirds who were very good but I’m partial to the Blue Angels.  Of course there’s some bias here as my brother is in the Navy but in my opinion the Blue Angels’ jets just look better than the Thunderbirds’ ones.  Anyway you can see a couple of videos of the Blue Angels here, here, and here, please pardon the shaky camera work as taking photos of subsonic bacon is much, much easier.

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