A Saturday admission armband for Sun n’ Fun packs a two-for-one punch: Instead of heading for the exits and jamming the roads when the last performer lands in the afternoon airshow, it’s worth sticking around for dinner on the grounds and waiting for the sun to set.
Pilots speak of night flight in hushed tones. With calmer winds, less turbulence and traffic a little easier to spot what with navigation lights and strobes, it’s a completely different experience from daytime flight. Likewise, a night airshow is a completely different animal from the daytime event.
In the late 1990s, the first night shows at Lakeland started with just a few performers. Longtime attendees will recall Bill Leff’s AT-6 Texan rigged with an entire fireworks show fired from the airplane, and Manfred Radius in his sailplane flying a surreal display with classical music and pyrotechnics painting the sky.
Radius continues to perform the evening display to this day, and is joined by a bevy of other performers that comprise an amazingly diverse field. Performers this year for the night show range from a multiple-drone display and a team of paragliders, to Lee Lauderback in the P-51, AeroShell’s AT-6 team, and jet performances by Greg Colyer in a T-33 and Bob Carlton’s SubSonex demonstration.
The performances after dark are generally flown at a higher altitude than the day shows. Claiming “there’s not a bad seat in the house,” may be a bit of an overstatement, but there’s no need to be front and center for the show as there is in the daylight show. Many attendees actually head out to the campground on the west end of the airport, where you can get a spot looking straight down the runway. From that vantage point, photographers can set their cameras on tripods that captures the entire aerobatic box for some breathtaking extended exposure images.
And then, there’s the grand finale: The fireworks display marking the end of the show is worth the price of admission.
The show takes place from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. A full list of performers slated for the Saturday Night Show follows:
Lee Lauderback: P-51 Mustang
Greg Colyer: T-33 Shooting Star
AeroShell Team: AT-6 Texans
Gene Soucy: Grumman AgCat “Show Cat”
Manfred Radius: Sailplane
Bob Carlton: SubSonex
Jerry Kirby: RV-8
U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Demonstration Team
Star Dance Spectacular: Drones