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Wed, Apr 14, 2004

S-N-F 2004 Opens to Inclement Weather, Low Attendance

High winds at night, low ceilings during the day keep crowds away

By ANN Correspondent Juan Jimenez

The Sun-N-Fun week-long general aviation show in Lakeland, Florida opened today after experiencing very high winds overnight that took down a number of tents and damaged a few aircraft on the flight line.

Exhibitor Paul Ross of Alturair told ANN that he lost his tent overnight and had to set it up again in the morning, after finding that the winds had relocated it on one of the aircraft exhibits across from his location. That aircraft was not damaged, but others on the flight line were affected by gusts that were estimated to have ranged between 30 and 70 miles per hour.

The opening of the show was also dampened by weather problems - low ceilings, overcast conditions, temperatures in the 50's and the occasional drizzle did not help to attract visitors to the activity. The parking lot was not filled anywhere near capacity and the volume of visitors is clearly down from last year's opening day.

The weather outlook for the rest of the week, however, is excellent. The forecast for Wednesday through Saturday is for sunny days and pleasant temperatures, with predicted highs ranging from 70 to 79 degrees. Lows are expected to from 51 to 55 degrees, which should spur attendance to the evening corn roasts and other heated activities.

One very nice improvement over last year's event is the quality of the food. This reporter has always had a pet peeve about the quality of the human fuel at EAA airshows, and this year the Sun-N-Fun staff appears to have outdone itself in this category. Among the new additions to the show fare is higher quality food (at prices to match) from Jimmy Buffet's new "Air Margaritaville" cafe, which now occupies the main food service location where nothing but burgers, hot dogs and fries were served in the past. The new cafe will offer "higher quality breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, and feature live entertainment each evening."

Other food service offerings new to the show will feature Johnson's Barbeque in the former homebuilt chicken and BBQ location, and an expanded food court will now serve Mexican, Italian, Chinese and Greek cuisine as well as seafood. A new high-end coffee house location will feature regular coffee as well as specialty beverages.

FMI: www.lakelandgov.net/airport/

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