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If the upcoming Florida International Air Show in Punta Gorda is anything like past years, millions of dollars will be spent by the tens of thousands who attend the event, with tens of thousands being donated to local charities. 

There were 22,750 people from outside Charlotte County who attended the air show in November 2023, which produced an economic impact of $5,310,800, according to a study from Tallahassee-based marketresearch firm Downs & St. Germain. There were 1,616 room nights booked by visitors who stayed in hotels, motels and Airbnbs. 

Visitors from outside the county also spent their money on restaurant meals, shopping, groceries, entertainment and transportation. 

During the show, they spent $3,612,800 for a variety of things from food trucks to vendors on the premises. 

The tourism revenue of $5,310,800 does not include money paid directly by the air show. 

Dollars spent by the show support local employee wages, the purchase of products or services needed during the event and equipment rental, said Denise Dull, president of the Florida International Air Show, or FIAS. 

Sales inside the event were $672,729, and after expenses of $805,793, “we were able to give $41,000 to local charities,” she said. 

Among the charities helped last year were the Punta Gorda and Naples chapters of Civil Air Patrol, Gator Wilderness Camp, the Port Charlotte High School cheering team, 99’s Women Pilots & Women in Aviation, Charlotte County Parrot Heads, USMC 756, JROTC of Charlotte High School, Army Island Coast High School, Mariner Drone High School, Punta Gorda Rotary, Florida Sheriff’s Explorers Association, Make-A-Wish Southern Florida, CandlelightersChildhood Cancer Family Alliance, Peace River Community Housing Partners, Loveland School, the North Port High School basketball team and more. 

The total estimated crowd for last year’s show was 45,000, but many view the show from outside the airport grounds, Dull said. 

“Attendance is a fluid definition in our world, as we know that there are folks who enjoy the entertainment that we work hard to provide from outside the gates, and who don’t always purchase a ticket,” Dull said. We see them parked along the roadways and in the parking lots of businesses around the airport, in folding chairs in the lots that are meant for those who do purchase tickets to attend the event, and even from the backyards of their own homes.” 

During the event last year, Friday drew 5,000 attendees, Saturday’s attendance was 22,500 and Sunday drew a crowd of 17,900 inside the gates, she added. 

This year the air show will be a two-day event, Nov. 2-3. 

Certain acts attract the most attention, such as the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds, and this year’s main attractionAir Combat Command F-16 Viper Demonstration Team from Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina. The team displays precision aerial maneuvers, showcasing the capabilities of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, one of the Air Force’s premier multirole fighters. 

County Tourism Director Sean Doherty said that while Tourist Development Tax data was only available for the entire month of November 2023 when the air show occurred, the 5% tax on rooms during the three days of the air show last year was approximately $12,000. 

“Of course, the much more important number was the $3.6 million in direct spending that Denise (Dull) mentioned, which is a major boost to the local hospitality industry in our slowest tourism month and equates to the $5.3 million in total economic impact,” Doherty said. 

He said the 1,616 room nights and the expenditures mentioned “only include the spectators and do not include the out-of-area air show talent, vendors, sponsors, etc.” 

Dull said this year’s air show also will feature the P-51, which takes to the sky in a heritage flight and demonstration. The single-seat aircraft dominated the skies over Western Europe during World War II and were pivotal in turning the tide of the war in favor of the Allied Forces. 

Also appearing will be The Chuters Jump Team veteran-owned and operated parachute team, three-time U.S. National Aerobatic champion Patty Wagstaff Warbird Thunder featuring two Navy Advanced Training Aircraft, which will perform aerobatic formations, and jet demonstration pilot Randy Ball. 

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