Air show draws eyes to the sky

IRVINE — What a day to turn to the sky.

On a warm, cloudless Saturday afternoon with the moon showing above the horizon, thousands of spectators kept their eyes to the sky for the Orange County Great Park's air show, part of the park's sixth anniversary celebration.

The theme for this year's celebration was "Growing the Park" an ode to the continual development of what is expected to become an Orange County icon in the future. Already there's enough developed on the thousands of acres to bring out the crowds.

"Airplanes in general have been a fascination for people," said Ed Solter of Mission Viejo, who with friends set up umbrellas and lawn chairs on the park's air strip to watch the show. "These days you don't see them flying around as much. And when you have a chance to see them up close and personal, it's a good reason to come out."

Walking along the airfield, formerly part of the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, kids, moms and dads would point left, right, up and down. No matter where they walked Saturday, there was something to amaze them, from old WWII fighter planes to transport and combat helicopters from multiple eras.

Even the crew members were part of the displays.

"It's something different for people," said Cpl. Aaron Booth, a door gunner on a Helicopter Marine Light Attack crew set up next to their aircraft to answer questions and take pictures with spectators. "Most people ask what we do."

Booth and his fellow gunner, Cpl. Phillip Marker, said the best part of their job is shooting down range while airborne.

"It's an adrenaline rush," Marker said.

Saturday's event was a chance to reminisce for some, like Michelle Salmonson of Mission Viejo. She said her family is full of military pilots, and she used to take her kids to air shows when it was still the El Toro air base.

For others, like Irvine resident Jose Garay, who brought his wife and kids to the park, it's about creating new memories.

"The park is awesome!" Garay said. Already his family stops by the park a few times a year to enjoy the green space or borrow sports equipment to play soccer on the grass or field hockey.

He said when the park is complete, "It's going to have something for everybody."

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