Wings Over Batavia temporarily grounded
A vote to forward the proposal for a Wings Over Batavia air show was tabled Wednesday after Legislator Gary Maha questioned how much it would cost the county.
“I’m certainly in favor of it,” Maha said during the Public Service meeting at the Old Courthouse. “My concern’s as to the cost to the county … is it $10,000, $20,000, $60,000? We don’t know.”
County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens presented a brief update about the air show, and it has been progressing towards a 2023 date. A Wings Over Batavia Committee has established an LLC to accept and manage funds for the show, Hens said. Each air act would have its own insurance policy, in addition to the LLC, which would protect the county’s liability, he said.
“It has been 25 years since the county hosted an air show,” he said. "There seems to be a lot of pent-up interest in wanting it. And the city has an interest in doing the Wing Ding again.”
A former air show that ran in conjunction with the city’s downtown Wing Ding — Main Street lined with food and craft vendors — was a popular yearly event in the 1990s. Hens came on board with the county just in time for the final one in 1998, he said.
“People have said for years, why don’t we do another air show?” he said to The Batavian after the meeting. “We’ve got the right people in place that want to do it, that are willing to spend the time to plan it, and raise the money to make sure it happens. As far as what they’re asking, the cost to the county … we have a pretty rough idea of how traffic is, going in and out of the air show. It’s different now than it was in 1998. But we can work with the Sheriff’s Office and fire training folks to figure out what the cost of providing traffic control will be pretty quickly, and have it back to the Ways & Means Committee hopefully in October.”
During the meeting, Legislator Marianne Clattenburg voted to table the matter, but voiced her disagreement with the need for it.
“I’m for this. I’d move on it right now,” she said. “I think this is something that we would fully support.”
Maha countered that by stating the group is being asked to vote on unspecified data.
“But we don’t know what we’re voting on, we’re voting on a blank check,” he said.
The costs would mostly pertain to law enforcement time for security during the event, as participants and attendees are willing to pay for the show, Hens said. In the mid-90s, nearly 40,000 people would attend. Formerly affiliated with the Wings of Eagles, the air show ceased when that group moved on to another venue after 1998.
Hens said the next air show meeting is in early October, and he expects to have more details for that month’s Ways & Means members. Aside from attendance revenue, there is also the ripple effect of drawing thousands of people from other areas, Hens said. Those people rent hotel rooms, eat in restaurants and shop locally while here. The resulting sales tax is a benefit to the county, he said.
The air show would be a self-sustaining entity, with the county incurring only incidental expenses from structural items, such as law enforcement time, he said. Organizers would set up a perpetual seed fund to carry it onward annually, he said.
“Air shows are hugely popular. I mean, if you go to the air shows in Buffalo, Rochester, Niagara Falls, there are big throngs of people,” he said. “So it’s a fun event.”
Photo: Genesee County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens, right, discusses a potential air show next year at Genesee County Airport during Wednesday's Public Services Committee meeting. Photo by Joanne Beck.