ROCKFORD (WIFR) – What’s supposed to be the final hurrah of summer is now a big disappointment for Rockford’s economy.
AirFest 2013 is officially canceled and it’s the second big act to go away this year. Some local pilots feel the economy isn't going to be the only victim.
"It's not an everyday experience,” Harrison Fenton said. “It's easy to fall in love with it."
The 17 year old started falling in love with flying when he started attending airshows as a child.
"[I] Originally got into flying as just something fun to do,” he says, “but as I've gotten older...really it's turned into something that I really want to do… as like a job or profession."
We caught up with him prior to taking off for his first time alone at Cottonwood Airport on Rockford’s west side.
"You can get into being a pilot; you can be a mechanic; you can be airport operations like you see at greater Rockford," said Bryan Hunt. He’s president of Rockford’s chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association.
He says thousands of children could likely miss out on being inspired to hit the skies like Harrison with this year's AirFest being canceled. Rockford Airport administrators tried rescheduling the air show after federal budget cuts meant no exciting headline act
"This isn't a local issue. Air fests across the country are being canceled,” Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau CEO John Groh said. “They have been canceled [or] they're being canceled as the summer rolls."
Groh says the cancelation of AirFest 2013 may affect local business.
"Our two largest festivals of the entire year aren't taking place this year," he said, "there will be a reduction in overall visitor spending - those visitors that would've have been going to AirFest or On The Waterfront. However, other things will take their place and we'll have to work a little bit harder to fill some of the gaps."
If you already bought tickets to this year’s AirFest, you can get your money back by going to the Rockford Airport's administration office building and you can do so by October 1st.
Last year, nearly 130 thousand people visited AirFest and nearly 200 thousand attended On the Waterfront.