10/29/06 — Airshow brings $2 million to county economy

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Airshow brings $2 million to county economy

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on October 29, 2006 2:01 AM

More than 67,000 people came to Wayne County two weeks ago for the annual Wings Over Wayne Airshow -- and they left behind nearly $2 million.

N.C. Department of Trans-portation tallied the attendance for the Oct. 15 event at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base with the help of strips on the roadways leading to base gates.

Officials say the thousands of visitors left their marks not just on the roadways, but on the local economy as well.

Some filled up their tank with gasoline at local marts.

Others stopped for a quick bite to eat or to take a look inside shops downtown and in Berkeley Mall.

Wayne Chamber of Commerce executive director Steve Hicks said the DOT's count was "fairly accurate," based on information he has heard from base officials and those who attended the event.

In the days before the show, Hicks predicted more than 50,000 would attend, resulting in an estimated $1 million in overall economic impact.

But high attendance numbers likely translated into an additional $500,000 to $1 million, he said.

"With the figures we used before, I think we were pretty close," Hicks said. "In the end, I would say we brought in a million and a half, or maybe even a little bit more than that. I'd say somewhere between 1.5 and $2 million."

Figures used by chamber officials to calculate the potential economic impact of tourism suggest the typical traveler spends about $20 a day, he added.

So, a multi-million dollar impact came as no surprise to Hicks when he heard the 67,000-plus attendance figure.

"That's not unusual for an event that size that attracts that many people," Hicks said.

Historically, performances by the Thunderbirds draw a large crowd at airshows, he added -- and this year, more likely came out to get their first look at the hometown F-15 team.

Whatever their reason for attending, they came by the thousands -- open wallets and purses in hand, Hicks said.