Can you believe it? No, I am not writing about Oshkosh cancelling their big summer celebration of flight. (If you somehow missed that aviation news Earthquake, now you know.)
Instead, I want to take you back in time, way back to January …a whole four months ago. What a different world we lived in then. Coronavirus was not on the minds of many Americans — nor, at that time, even on the minds of Chinese citizens, though leaders might have had some inkling.
In January 2020, the aviation community, certainly the Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot kit aircraft sector, was stunned by the permanent cancellation of the Sebring Expo after 15 years of operation. (Here is more about why they made that decision.)
Yes, that was only weeks ago, though it seems more distant given the momentous events of the last two months.
With no Sebring to cover, Videoman Dave and I again headed out West to the Copperstate show in the first week of February. As I flew airlines to Arizona, I didn’t think once about coronavirus or wearing a mask and I’d never heard the term “social distancing.”
Looking Toward Fall 2020 Shows
Amazingly the events most likely to succeed in this unusually weird environment are Midwest LSA Expo and DeLand Showcase. Thinking back to Sebring’s astounding announcement that it was closing its Expo doors forever, few thought this year would come to no other events except Midwest and DeLand.
Midwest LSA Expo 2020 — First up following the absence of Oshkosh is Midwest LSA Expo, which will run for its 11th year. To learn about their plans, I contacted airport manager and lead event organizer Chris Collins. Beside being a fellow everyone — vendors, attendees, and volunteers — all seem to like and respect, Chris is a calm, cool chap that takes many things in stride with apparent ease.
With his able assistant Sheila (who also attended her first DeLand in 2019), Chris is evaluating what to do after the departure of AirVenture from the aviation calendar.
“Our event is basically social distancing, has always been. In fact, it’s part of the charm. You can talk to vendors and go flying far more easily than the big, densely populated shows.” He added, “I can see that exhibitors may take their own precautions. Some may want to take temperatures or require masks or other steps to insure everyone’s safety.”
“Of course, our forums and our restaurant may need extra planning to keep distances and such, but we can work with that,” Chris assured.
He reported recently taking delivery of sanitizers, masks, and other cleansers so preparations have already started. He felt advised to say, “We’re also listening to our state governor and local officials as to their opinion.” The hope we both expressed was that by early September, this virus challenge will be fading in the rear-view mirror. So far, though, Chris and team are absolutely planning to go forward. Midwest LSA Expo dates for 2020 are September 10-11-12.
“Nonetheless, AirVenture postponing does take away some of our marketing,” Chris noted.” I can usually do a good bit of soliciting at Oshkosh by going around to speak to vendors we want at Midwest LSA Expo.” This year he will have to do more electronically as he and every other aviation business operator miss the connections Oshkosh offers.
“It’s a bittersweet thing,” Chris concluded. While he acknowledged some advantage he may now have, “I worry about Sun ‘n Fun and Oshkosh and how they will survive having to cancel in 2020.
DeLand Showcase 2020 — Slated for November, DeLand appears to be in even better shape. One real challenge relates to Sebring …no, not the aviation event but the Twelve Hours of Sebring auto race. Originally scheduled for mid-March, Sebring Raceway was one of the very first to put off their popular event but they went further and planned for — consider this — the same time period as DeLand. Normally that would not matter; the two are physically distant and attract different audiences and vendors. However, as providers such as tent suppliers hope for a return to business, they know they can be overwhelmed and they have the same problem as other businesses regarding getting enough workers to prepare, ship, and erect dozens of tents in a short time.
I called executive direct Jana Filip to see how she and her team are preparing.
“Just today, I spoke with airport manager, John Eiff, and we decided that we are going ahead as planned with a few things ready in case of need,” said Jana. “We will need to reconfigure parts of our show and we will reach out to CDC to get their recommendations about group gatherings.”
“We’ll offer some advance opportunities to induce people to come to Florida,” Jana noted. Also, we will provide more hand-wash stations and we may put stickers on the pavement to help guide people in staying separated.”
On the layout that has been a Deland Showcase strength, Jana said, “We discussed arranging our tents more like your local art festival. That is, we may switch from large multiple-vendor tents that everyone likes and go to a series of smaller tents, separated for added safety. We may have more open tents to allow for better airflow. “Vendor spaces will still be the same size,” she guaranteed.
“My heart goes out to the folks at Sun ‘n Fun and AirVenture,” Jana lamented. “Our show is much easier to manage as we are smaller. We have ample space to spread out as needed to assure the safest arrangement. Plus, because we’re smaller we can make changes as needed right up until days before showtime.”
Deland Showcase dates for 2020 are November 12-13-14.
And …Oshkosh? — The next convention is now almost 15 months away. AirVenture 2021 will be held July 26 through August 1, 2021.