Thunderous jets and pesky showers mark abbreviated opening of Air and Water Show
Thousands of people flocked to the lakefront on Saturday, enduring rain and thunder to catch the 61st annual Chicago Air and Water Show.
The Hockey Hall of Famer was beaming with excitement as cheering fans applauded the parachute mission.
“You can’t beat this feeling,” Chelios said. “They didn’t even give me time to think. They just strapped me on and sent me out.”
Chelios said the Golden Knights told him if he was too nervous to jump, they would push him out of the plane.
“And he did push me,” Chelios said with a laugh.
Additional performers included the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy Leap Frogs and the Red Arrows, the U.K.’s Royal Air Force Aerobatics Team.
The Red Arrows streaked the sky with their intricately choreographed flight formations, painting the air with red, white and blue jet clouds.
Storm clouds loomed over the lakefront for most of the day with overcast weather halting the show twice. An early rain shower left pilots grounded for a quick 20 minutes, but the show took a longer, midday hiatus when heavier rainfall rolled in.
Thunder rumbled in the distance as commentator Herb Hunter, the Air and Water Show mainstay affectionately known as Voice of the Show, instructed attendees to seek shelter while pilots waited about an hour for the storm to pass.
Aerial onlookers, undeterred by the rainy weather, cheered as a military aircraft formation took to the sky, with the jets’ vibrant colors shining boldly against the gray sky.
Two-year-old Zeke Townshend gasped in amazement, pointing to the aircraft as they soared above. His mother, 27-year-old Jazmin Townshend, clasped sound-reducing earmuffs over his head, cheering over the roaring jets.
“We last came to the show three years ago, but were excited to bring Zeke this year,” the boy’s father, 28-year-old Seth Townshend, said. “Zeke loves anything mechanical, so he’s all about these planes.”
Pamela Jackson brought her family from Hammond, Indiana, out to see the show. The 45-year-old grew up in the Cabrini Green neighborhood and has gone to the show almost every year of her life.
“I’ve only missed this three times in my entire life,” Jackson said. “I always wanted to be a pilot in the Air Force, but couldn’t when I had my oldest child, so it’s fun to bring her out to see this with me.”
One of Jackson’s daughters, 22-year-old Melanie Johnson, is a corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps. She called the Air and Water Show a beloved family tradition.
The show ended about 15 minutes early due to a bleak weather forecast.
According to the National Weather Service, more rain could be in store as the jets are scheduled to take off again Sunday from 10 a.m. through 3 p.m.