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Wings Over Batavia

October 6, 2022 - 8:10am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, Wings Over Batavia, notify, genesee county.

tim_hens_linkedin.jpegA best-case scenario for the resurrected Wings Over Batavia air show is that a profit would be made, but Tim Hens will settle for a bit less.

“I would like it to be a break even,” the county highway superintendent and air show committee liaison said to county legislators Wednesday.

As promised last month, Hens returned to the hot seat and reported an estimated county expense for the event.

“Our best guess is around $12,705,” he said.

That total would be for county Sheriff’s Office deputies and Emergency Management Services staff to provide security, traffic and crowd control. The breakdown was estimated to be $5,400 for offsite traffic control; $2,055 for EMS presence; and $5,250 for pre-show preparations by highway and facilities maintenance staff.

Aside from whatever the show itself may take in from the admission price, Hens and the committee are hopeful that all of that traffic will eventually leave the airport on Saile Drive and go shopping, eating and/or taking in some local entertainment.

The county will also see increased sales tax because of the air show and related Wing Ding event held within the City of Batavia,” Hens said.

An estimated increase in sales tax proceeds during the three-day event would be from $20,000 to $40,000, he said.

“There actually would be no increased costs on our insurance policy, which was surprising to me,” he said. “We asked them to look at the airshow, there was a skydiving event as part of the history. And pyrotechnic fireworks are part of the event. There was no actual added costs, which was good news to hear.”

Ways & Means legislative members generally agreed to move forward with the event request, however, the approval of legislators Gary Maha and Chairwoman Shelley Stein included a caveat.

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"So I would move this for approval in a second," Stein said. "At the same time, I don't want this to cost the county over that $40,000, you know, I would very much like it to break even with our sales tax because I think it's going to be a great opportunity to bring this back to Batavia.

“But I think, as Gary said, we just don't want to sign a blank check," she said. "I absolutely want to be supportive of this.”

Legislators emphasized that the county was not sponsoring this event, but lending its support via a resolution and the potential costs of labor mentioned above. Wings Over Batavia LLC is forming a non-profit entity and will be the group responsible for the air show.

The request will move on to the whole Genesee County Legislature for a vote later this month.

If given final approval, the air show is tentatively scheduled for mid-September 2023. 

To view a prior Wings Over Batavia air show, check out this Youtube.com video made in 1997 by EFP Network. This was one year before the last air show took place.

Top Photo of Tim Hens from social media. 2022 File Photo of Genesee County Legislature Chairwoman Shelley Stein. Photo by Joanne Beck.

September 22, 2022 - 8:04pm
posted by Joanne Beck in news, Wings Over Batavia, genesee county, notify.

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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.

June 10, 2022 - 11:36am

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Press release:

Genesee County officials and business leaders are joining forces to once again fill the Batavia skies with the one-of-a-kind excitement generated by a professional air show.

The “Wings Over Batavia” festival -- a family-oriented event that is looking to feature awe-inspiring aerobatic jet teams such as the Blue Angels, Thunderbirds or Snowbirds and patriotic displays of F16 and F22 fighter jets -- tentatively has been scheduled for Sept. 15-17, 2023, at the Genesee County Airport on Saile Drive.

“We are in the process of putting committees together to handle the various aspects of conducting a show of this magnitude,” said County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens, who also oversees operations at the airport. “We haven’t had an air show since 1998, and it’s long overdue.”

Hens has presided over two meetings attended by county emergency services department staff members as well as municipal and agency representatives. Plans are to offer “a successful and safe event,” he said, adding that the group has enlisted the services of Doreen Hillard of Fort Worth, Texas, who has years of experience in the air show industry throughout the United States.

Batavia entrepreneur Peter Zeliff has been selected to serve as the festival’s general chair, with assistance from Hillard.

At Wednesday’s meeting at the county Fire Training Center on State Street Road, Zeliff said the committee is pursuing an agreement with Dennis Dunbar of Berlin, Wis., director of Air Show Operations for EAA AirVenture and president of Dunbar Airshows, to be the show’s promoter.

“With Doreen and Dennis on board, we know that our show will be first-rate,” Zeliff said. “And with the community’s support, we believe this is something that can take place on an annual basis.”

Zeliff said he already has been in contact with leading aviation industry operations and Genesee County business owners regarding sponsorship of the show.

“It is going to take a lot of financial and volunteer support to make this happen, and we’re counting on the people of the GLOW region to come through,” Zeliff added.

Photo: file photo of Whiskey 7 by Howard Owens

The air festival is scheduled to take place in conjunction with the renewal of the Wing Ding event on Sept. 16 in the City of Batavia.

Residents interested in volunteering in the planning and on-site operations of the air show are asked to contact Hens at [email protected].
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