Gallery: Rain can't dampen Air Festival fun

MORE than 425,000 people had already flocked to the coast for the two days of the 13th Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival, beating last year's figures by 5,000, before heavy rain temporarily disrupted proceedings late this afternoon.

MORE than 425,000 people had already flocked to the coast for the two days of the 13th Lowestoft Seafront Air Festival, beating last year's figures by 5,000, before heavy rain temporarily disrupted proceedings late this afternoon.

This year's festival was billed as a make-or-break year with organisers calling for visitors to each pay �2 towards ensuring that next year's event went ahead.

Paul Bayfield, managing director of the show, said the money collected in the buckets would not be known until Monday, but he said he was optimistic that most people had paid.

He said: “We had 210,000 people on the first day and 215,000 on the second. It amazes me that we had more people attending this year than last year, considering the weather forecast for Friday was not good.


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“Clearly, we are all hardy souls or people are just used to the English weather and are prepared for it.”

He added: “We're cautiously optimistic that most people have paid the �2 and I cannot wait to find out the total collected. The vibe is that we have been well supported this year and if all goes well and as expected with the total count, then it will be green for go again next year.”

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Meanwhile, Mr Bayfield defended the decision to ask for a �2 entrance fee, despite one regular visitor from Milton Keynes complaining via email that it was too much after already paying for park and ride, food, the �3.50 programme and other expenses,.

Mr Bayfield emailed her back requesting she stay away from the event if she thought the fee was wrong, and she contacted local TV.

Mr Bayfield, however, said he had since received several emails from people supporting his stance including one from Katrina McGill, from Suffield Road, Gorleston, who said �2 was “hardly onerous” and added she was “shocked” that anyone would quibble over paying it.

Mr Bayfield added: “It was an absolute necessity to ask for the �2. We had to tell people the desperate position we were in, and hope they responded well - which it looks like they have.”

As reported, Thursday's weather was glorious for the air displays, but then turned showery in the early evening.

Today started off sunny and warm, but the displays were briefly interrupted in the early afternoon due to a shower storm, and then later when thunder and lighting caused another delay.

There was also some bad news for visitors as the Vulcan did not take part, as the weather was too bad at its Northamptonshire base.

However, regular favourites, The Red Arrows kicked off the show at 11.30am with a superb display, and the Dutch F16 also wowed the crowds, as it had done the previous day.

Most of the hardy visitors remained on the beach following the first showers, and many die-hard fans were still there for the end of the show tonight.

Even the Bascule bridge being raised several times throughout the two days did not dampen spirits, as the police used extra officers to ensure pedestrian traffic kept flowing,

Insp Stuart Grimsey, of Suffolk police, said: “It has gone very well and there's been very little crime.”

Teresa Church, of the East of England Ambulance Service, said it had been a very busy show for them, and extra reserves had been drafted in.

The festival is worth �10m to the local economy, and Asa Morrison, principal service manager, culture, tourism and sport, at Waveney District Council, said: “It's been absolutely fantastic, as it's getting harder each year to improve the festival. It's given a huge boost to the bars, businesses and restaurants in the town, and once again it's been the highlight of the tourism calendar in Lowestoft.”

The event will be followed in town tomorrow and Sunday by the Honda Formula 4-Stroke offshore powerboat grand prix.

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