Chicago enjoys Air and Water Show

August 15, 2009 (CHICAGO) A wide array of military and civilian acts impressed the huge crowds gathered on the ground below.

An estimated 1 million people packed the lakefront on a day with perfect summer weather to witness one of the most popular summer events in Chicago.

Once again, the city's annual extravaganza took to Lake Michigan and the skies above.

"It's such an amazing day out here. We're so happy to be out here enjoying this beautiful weather and the airplanes. The kids are loving it," said spectator Mary Colleen Bragiel of Chicago.

Old fan favorites like the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and the U.S. Navy Leap Frogs parachute team returned to thrill the crowds at the 51st year of the Chicago Air and Water Show. But, for the first time, organizers combined the air and water portions into one continuous performance. They also welcomed the Red Bull Helicopter to the event, which is the only aerobatic helicopter of its kind in North America piloted by the only civilian pilot licensed by the FBI to operate it.

"I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully, we'll do it again next year," said Diego Larco, an Air and Water show fan.

To mark their 50th anniversary at the show, the U.S. Army Golden Knights had Iraq war veteran and Paralympian Melissa Stockwell tandem jump with them from 12,000 feet.

"I used to think I felt free when I was skiing down a mountain with the wind blowing through my hair, but this takes it to a whole new level," said the Wounded Warrior Project's Stockwell.

Like in years past, the Air and Water show draws some of the world's top military and civilian acts and those protesting the armed forces.

"Basically, it's passed off as family entertainment, and, as you can see, many people think it is, but it's really a recruiting tool and a vehicle for trying to persuade people that fighting wars and spending a trillion dollars a year on war [is ok]," Father Bob Bossie of Free the Children of the World Coalition said.

Despite that, Governor Quinn was on hand as 50 Air Force recruits were sworn in as a part of the show's usual salute to the military.

"The people are here to thank the military, the Air Force, and all of who are involved in putting on the show," Quinn said.

The show was set to continue Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Those planning to attend are reminded that parking is very limited. Therefore, public transportation will be best.

You can catch a complete wrap-up of all of the Air and Water show action Sunday night at 10:35 p.m. on ABC7 Chicago as meteorologists Jerry Taft and Tracy Butler host "Chicago's Top Guns: A Wet and Wild Weekend."

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