Two years in the making, the 2021 edition of the Sun ’n Fun Fly-In kicks off today, and based on pre-sale tickets, the event could be far bigger and better attended than anyone could have anticipated, even a couple of weeks ago. And while many wondered just how many exhibitors might attend, the signs are good, with the exhibit grounds filling up, most companies fielding what passes for a full commercial presence, or close to it, anyways. Aircraft from Piper, Daher, Aviat, Epic and many more were on site with full displays.
John “Lites” Leenhouts, president and CEO of Sun ’n Fun and the Aerospace Center for Excellence, addressed reporters before the start of Day One, saying that 1.2 million tickets have been sold for Sun ’n Fun by Tuesday morning, an increase of around 20% from even good years in the past. Exhibitor action was good too, with the number dropping by around 20%, which might sound like a down year, but many expected a huge dip in exhibitors.
Leenhouts, when asked about eliminating the cap on attendance each day, said that the grounds, which have more than 2,000 acres, are plenty to accommodate even a big crowd with the Florida-recommended three feet of social distancing. The exhibit halls themselves are more problematic, because with two entrances in each one, it’s difficult or impossible to keep an accurate head count. Sun ’n Fun staff will essentially eyeball the number of folks in the building and shut off entries until it decreases to the point where there’s enough room for more customers to head in.
As far as the health implications are concerned, Leenhouts said that masks are not required outside, but they are in enclosed spaces. Despite Florida’s rap for being mask unfriendly, mask wearing is, in fact, widely practiced, as is social distancing.
We’ll follow up with a story about how the attendance fares in light of such high expectations.