Thunderbirds in F-16s to headline Cocoa Beach Air Show


The US Air Force Thunderbirds – one of the most famous flight demonstration teams in the world – will be headlining April’s Cocoa Beach Air Show.

The Thunderbirds will perform in their F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets over the ocean for the show, which is scheduled for April 14-15.

They were last in Brevard for the 2021 Cocoa Beach Air Show, which took place on April 17-18.

Representatives from the National Air, Sea & Space Foundation — which is the organizer of the Cocoa Beach Air Show — submitted their application for “big event” funding to the Culture Committee of the Brevard County Tourist Development Council last week.

So does Space Coast Super Boats LLC, the promoter of the Thunder on Cocoa Beach powerboat races and related events scheduled May 18-21.

Busy Tourism Weekend: 2022 Thunder on Cocoa Beach and Space Coast International Air Show scheduled for same weekend in May

Previous Air Show Grant: The Cocoa Beach Air Show is up for a $100,000 tourism grant from the county’s hotel tax

The grants — which can total up to $100,000 apiece — will be funded from revenue generated by Brevard County’s 5 percent tourism development tax on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals.

To qualify for a scholarship, a recipient must attract at least 25,000 participants, of which at least 25% must be from outside of Brevard County; must have a minimum return on investment of 40-1 from the grant; and must spend at least 40% of its marketing budget outside of Brevard County.

Funding levels are based on total attendance, with a maximum grant of up to $100,000 for an event with more than 200,000 attendees. These are the other scholarship levels:

  • 25,000 to 49,999 participants: $25,000 maximum grant.
  • 50,000 to 99,999 participants: $50,000 maximum grant.
  • 100,000 to 199,999 participants: $75,000 maximum grant.
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The grant may also not exceed 20% of the budget for the organization’s most recent event.

Cocoa Beach Air Show

Kyle Smith, vice president of sales for the company that organizes the Cocoa Beach Air Show, said the show’s “soccer field” will stretch more than two miles from Shepard Park to the Minutemen Causeway in Cocoa Beach. The exhibition center is located in Lori Wilson Park.

The shows are on Saturday April 15th and Sunday April 16th, with a rehearsal day on Friday April 14th.

In his presentation to the Culture Committee, Smith noted that “because our show is in the sky, viewers can see from the hotel balconies on any floor or from the pool deck, even from non-beachfront hotels, which reflects the rates and occupancy rates raised over the limit.”

In addition to the Thunderbirds, the show will feature a range of military and civilian aircraft, as well as historic warbirds, provided by Valiant Air Command in Titusville.

The National Air, Sea & Space Foundation – the organizer of this show – has been hosting air shows in Melbourne and Cocoa Beach since 2013.

In its grant application, the organization said it expects the 2023 Cocoa Beach Air Show to attract families with adults ages 35 to 54 and children ages 8 to 13.

“The goal is to provide an inspirational and patriotic family event that will draw hundreds of thousands of viewers, leave them with a memorable and positive impression of Florida’s Space Coast, and keep them coming back in the future,” the application reads.

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The filing claims the last Cocoa Beach Air Show in 2021 had an economic impact of $9.44 million.

Although the air show is free at the beach or elsewhere in Cocoa Beach, the organizer receives revenue from corporate partnerships, grants, premium/VIP sightseeing tickets, and revenue from vendors.

There was no Cocoa Beach Air Show last year.

But the Space Coast International Air Show at Space Coast Regional Airport in Titusville received a $73,000 major event grant for its 2022 show, which took place on May 21-22. The US Air Force’s F-22 Raptor Demo Team directed this show, which the National Air, Sea and Space Foundation partnered with Titusville-based Valiant Air Command to produce.

Thunder on Cocoa Beach

The Thunder on Cocoa Beach Power Boat Races will take place on Sunday May 21st. The route runs from the Cocoa Beach Pier to the Minutemen Causeway.

This is the 13th event of its kind in Cocoa Beach in the last 14 years. There was no race in 2020 due to COVID-19.

Additionally, there will be a kickoff party on May 18th at Juice ‘N Java in downtown Cocoa Beach; a block party in downtown Cocoa Beach and a VIP party at Coconuts on the Beach on May 19; and a “Meet, Greet and Mingle” reception with the racers in Port Canaveral on May 20th. Plans for a concert during the race weekend are also being developed.

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Race President Kerry Bartlett said the race will be the first event on the American Power Boat Association’s 2023 National Championship schedule. He compared it to the Daytona 500 that started the NASCAR stock car racing season.

More than 60 boats are expected in the various competition classes.

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Bartlett said the May 22, 2022 race — plus the three days of related events — attracted a total of 102,286 people, including 36,255 from outside of Brevard County, based on the number of cell phones in the event area.

In his grant application, Bartlett wrote, “This boat racing event draws a tremendous crowd to our beaches and watch from their beachfront balconies, as well as flocking to downtown Cocoa Beach and the harbor for the land events.”

Like the air show, viewing the motorboat races is free. The promoter receives income from the sale of VIP tickets, retail space and t-shirt sales.

The powerboat race received a $73,000 major event grant for the 2022 event.

What’s next

The nine members of the culture committee are in the process of evaluating the grant applications individually.

They will meet on October 20th to make funding recommendations based on the results of the assessment. Their recommendations will be forwarded to the Tourist Development Council for discussion at its October 26 meeting and then to the Brevard County Commission for a final vote at their November 14 meeting.

The grant guidelines state that the applicant must achieve an average score of at least 80 from the members of the cultural committee who compile the ranking.

The scholarships will be reimbursed to the organizers after registration of the event costs. Eligible expenses according to the grant guidelines include “personnel, marketing, consumables, materials and other general operating expenses”.

Grant funding will be reduced for events that fall short of projected economic impact.

Dave Berman is the business editor at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Berman at [email protected] Twitter: @bydavebermann.

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