Thunder Over Dover thrills more than 50,000 guests to DAFB

DOVER — Officials for the Thunder Over Dover Open House at Dover Air Force Base were prepared to host crowds of upwards of 150,000 guests on both Saturday and Sunday last weekend.

As they say, better to be safe than sorry.

While the crowds at the air show didn’t quite approach that lofty number, they still attracted visitors from all over the area to catch the aerial action, get an up-close glimpse of dozens of planes and watch the United States Air Force Thunderbirds flight demonstration team perform.

“We had around 65,000 (spectators) for Saturday and Sunday,” said Capt. Bernie Kale, public affairs liaison for DAFB. “We are still trying to get a more firm amount, but that’s the initial estimate.”

It was the first open house at the air base since 2009 and the first time the community has been invited onto the installation since 1994.

The Thunderbirds soar over the control tower and a C-17 at Dover Air Force Base Sunday afternoon. (Delaware State News/Andrew West)

Col. Ethan Griffin, Commander of the 436th Airlift Wing, called Thunder Over Dover a remarkable success on its’ website.

“Twenty years in the making, our airshow’s return to the main ramp was a thunderous success thanks to the precision, enthusiasm and hospitality of our Airmen, sponsors and many more,” Col. Griffin said. “Team Dover is proud to have shared the inspirational story of American airpower amidst several anniversaries, including the 70th of our Air Force, the 75th of our base and the 300th of our city. We’ll continue to ‘Aim High’ together.”

The show was met with near perfect weather conditions throughout the weekend, though it did get a little hot on the tarmac on Saturday.

Lt. Col. Todd Walker, director of the Thunder Over Dover Open House, said he was definitely pleased with the event’s outcome on the 436th Airlift Wing’s website.

“It was an absolutely flawless event,” he said. “We were able to host 50,000 people and show them the history of air power. We got great farmers’ tans, too.”

Dover Mayor Robin R. Christiansen was a guest at Thunder Over Dover and was amazed at the aircraft that were on display as well as the air power and precision that filled the air.

Mayor Christiansen thanked the Thunderbirds and all of the performers, volunteers and everyone involved for making the event a success on his Facebook page.

“Thank you to the men and women from the 436th Eagle Wing and the 512th Liberty Wing of the Dover Air Force Base for opening their home for an up-close glimpse at our amazing Air Force and putting together and amazing air show,” he wrote. “Thank you to the civilian personnel and sponsors for showcasing Dover and Dover Air Force Base.

“As they say at the base, ‘Aim high, Dover pride!’”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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