As 250,000 people watched, the Blue Angels flying squad twisted, rolled and played hide-and-seek Saturday through clouds that by 2:30 p.m. blocked out the blue sky over the 37th annual Navy Relief Air Show in El Toro.
Five-year-old Terry Fernau from Anaheim was clearly baffled by the aircraft, asking his grandfather to explain just where "the noise comes from, and how can they fly upside down without falling out?"
His grandfather weighed an explanation, then replied, "Magic, just magic."
The show at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station is held to benefit the families of young Marines and Navy personnel.
Although clearly the main event, the "Blues" weren't the only purveyors of aerobatics.
While veteran air show performer Joann Nottke was piloting her tiny wood-wing plane through a high-altitude dance, the announcer called out her moves: double tuck, two-and-a-half twist and free fall.
Second only to the Blue Angels in popularity was a mock reconnaissance mission involving several troops of Marines, a cannon, bomb-dropping aircraft and much flying dust that brought cheers and applause.
The 20-minute stunt opened with an advance team of four Marines rappeling down ropes from a helicopter suspended above the viewing area. After hitting the ground, they were joined by two dozen more of their comrades, carried in by dust-stirring Super Stallions.
Next came a textbook capture of "enemy territory," complete with a flag-waving tank. The advance team left the same way they came--by rope suspended from a helicopter.
Billed by the Marines as the largest free attraction in Southern California, the air show took on the flavor of a carnival, with concession stands and brass bands interspersed among aircraft displays.
Retired soldiers traded stories of their glory days and managed crisp salutes while the national anthem was played, and youngsters waited in line to have their faces painted in shades of green and brown to match their camouflage clothing.
The show will continue today from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with the Blue Angels scheduled to perform at 2:30 p.m. Visitors can enter through the main gate on Trabuco Road.
Irvine Police Sgt. Al Murray reported few problems with traffic, which clogged the streets around the base for several hours Saturday morning and from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Caltrans will close the southbound and northbound off-ramps for Jefferey Road, Sand Canyon Avenue and Culver Drive on Interstate 5 until tonight.