STUART, Fla. — Approximately 60,000 people are expected to attend the Stuart Air Show at Witham Field before it ends Sunday evening. But stunts and demos aren’t the only draw — military recruitment is also big this year.
Dr. Luis Villar is the owner of a restored Boeing Stearman, an 80-year old plane and one of four military aircraft that’s part of his family’s aerial arsenal.
"I never got into the military because the war ended just as I got out of medical school — so I had to build my own Air Force," Dr. Villar said. "This Stearman was training the Navy aviators that went to war."
And the aerial roots in his family go deep.
"I’ve been building planes since the day I was born," said Carter Polachek, Dr. Villar’s grandson. "I basically came out of the womb and they handed me a wrench."
It’s a family of Stuart residents who believe airshows are vital to recruitment and national security.
And there’s data to support it, the Air Force’s Air Education and Training Command estimates when the Thunderbirds are present at air shows for example, leads (someone who is interested in the military and qualified to enlist) increase by over 40%.
"I think it might be even more important than the monetary gain in this entire event," Polachek said.
And Polachek already has his sights set on the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
"That was one of my dreams and still is," he said. "I’ve wanted to become a naval aviator for a long time."
In honor of the people who made the dream a reality all veterans, active duty and their spouses pay only $5 to attend this year’s airshow. General admission is $30. Youth age six to 12 are $5 and children five and under are free.
There’s also more war reenactments, static displays and demonstrations both in the air and on the ground. One thing that remains the same this year is the fundraising element. Tens of thousands of dollars will be donated to area non-profits and organizations. It’s part of the airshows commitment to service.
"That’s the future," Dr. Villar said.
If you missed the air show the same exact same schedule, demonstrations and times are the same on Sunday. Gates open at 9am with a Vietnam reenactment beginning 11:35am after the national anthem. To learn more visit, here: https://stuartairshow.com/schedule
People are encouraged to bring a lawn chair but there are items you are not permitted to bring to the field, to see the full list visit, here: https://stuartairshow.com/faq