On Day One of Sun ’n Fun, “Lites” Leenhouts, the outgoing head of the airshow, shared his great optimism for the 2022 edition of the event. The annual spring fly-in, which was canceled outright in 2020 and greatly curtailed in 2021, looks to spring back to its pre-pandemic form. According to Leenhouts, that is precisely what the pre-sale figures presage.
He prefaced the entire address by reminding the reporters in attendance that Sun ‘n Fun has changed, and essentially, as he put it, the mission has flipped to reflect the goals of the umbrella organization, the Aviation Center for Excellence, which provides educational aviation opportunities for tens of thousands of Central Florida young adults every year.
Lites said that advance ticket sales (this includes general admission, VIP tickets, camping, etc..) was at record levels. As a comparison, he said that pre-sales totaled $650,000 in 2018; this year, he said that sales in 2022 were already at $1.33 million. “This,” Lites said, “exceeds even last year, which was $1.1 (million), which was the best year ever.”
He added that Sun ’n Fun, “survived Covid, never went into debt, and now we’re able to say, we’ve got money back in the bank and we’re able to continue all of our educational programs.” He added, “last year was the best year ever and we think this year is going to exceed that.”
One of the highlights of the show—let’s be honest, any show they’re at—the USAF Thunderbirds arrived at Lakeland the day before the show. They will perform Thursday, Friday and Saturday, he said. Also at the show will be B-29 Doc, a USAF B-1 Bomber, and thousands of fly-in airplanes.
As usual, rain is in the forecast in Lakeland, though the forecasts call for periods of sunny skies as well. And Sun ’n Fun show goers have proven over the years that they are, if anything, resilient and, if not water proof, then certainly tolerant of a little water.
Check out our daily coverage of the show all week long, as Sun ’n Fun struts its stuff.