CHICAGO - Practice for this year's Chicago Air and Water Show captivated crowds Friday morning and afternoon along the lakefront. Jets soared overhead as pilots prepared for the weekend of excitement.
This Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., North Avenue Beach will serve as center stage for the annual event, but people can catch most of the action anywhere along the lakefront between Oak Street and Fullerton Avenue.
It is the largest free show of its kind in the nation, and it is back in full force after the event was scaled down last year due to the pandemic.
"I just feel like Air and Water brings everyone together," said Samantha Corey.
With it comes a roar that draws our eyes to the sky each summer – and this year, many couldn’t wait to experience the excitement.
"I would say that the Blue Angels were absolutely, without question, the highlight of the whole boat trip," said Ken Ovesky, who is visiting from Colorado.
The U.S. Navy Blue Angels – who put on quite the show during practice – and the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachute team will headline this year’s event.
"I love it that air shows brings out the kid in all of us, adults become kids when we watch the air show – don’t understand it, but we do," said Herb Hunter, voice of the Chicago Air and Water Show.
Visitors from near and far are flocking to Chicago to take in all the action.
"It was somewhere between 12 and 15 years ago, and I remember the first time I ever saw an F-22 Raptor fly it was here. And it just kind of blew me away," said Marty Marino, who is visiting from Michigan.
"I got lots of little films of them, and so it was a lot of fun. I loved it, sitting out there, letting them go right over us," said Shirlene Bender, from Louisiana. "Very exhilarating."
Boaters got their sneak peek from the water, while others took in the sights and sounds from the shore.
Due to large crowds, officials are urging show-goers to take public transportation downtown.
Officials are also asking the public to take note of numbered green and white pole markers along the lakefront. In the event of an emergency, you're encouraged to relay that number when calling 911 to help pinpoint your location.
"If you want to do the water portion of the show, you need to come to the beach, it’s right here on the water, so come on down to North Avenue Beach or Oak Street. I would come early, get your spot for these two days – but the air show is a little different, you can find viewing vantage points all along the coastline here," said Jason Lesniewicz, senior director of cultural tourism, Choose Chicago.
It is a jam-packed weekend in the city. In addition to the Air and Water Show, Ribfest is also being held in North Center. It kicked off Friday and will continue Saturday and Sunday from noon to 10 p.m.
In Union Park, Ruido Fest – a Latin alternative music festival – will take place Saturday and Sunday from 12:45 p.m. to 10 p.m.