Arts & Entertainment Community Government
Wings & Wheels airshow first postponed, now canceled at Tacoma Narrows Airport
The Wings & Wheels airshow at Tacoma Narrows Airport, postponed earlier from the Fourth of July weekend to later in the summer, has now been canceled altogether.
The cancelation may be permanent.
The event had been hosted at the Gig Harbor-area airport since 2010. It attracted up to 7,000 people for the airshow, static airplane displays, car show, food vendors and a beer garden.
Presenter Tacoma Events Commission previously had leased ramp space from fixed base operator Narrows Aviation, opted not to support it this year. Tony La Stella, the nonprofit group’s president and CEO, said on April 25 that TEC and airport owner Pierce County devised a workaround with a new footprint and fueling arrangements.
But the workaround could not be implemented in time to keep the traditional July 4 date. The event was bumped to Aug. 27-28.
La Stella said in a news release this week that Pierce County previously had indicated that “issues preventing the event from going forward had been resolved.” La Stella said the county had acknowledged that neither the fixed-base operators nor the Tacoma Airport Advisory Board “could prevent the event from happening on the non-leased portion of the public airport.”
The county indicated that the new, smaller footprint was sufficient for the expected crowd and didn’t appear to be a problem with the fire marshal, La Stella said.
About-face from Pierce County
Yet on June 3, the TEC received a letter from the county canceling the event. Spokeswoman Erin Babbo said information written in the letter would be the county’s only response.
The letter stated that, “after a thorough review of the 2022 Wings and Wheels Event plan, Pierce County will not be able to accommodate the request to hold the event at the Tacoma Narrows Airport.
“The factors that went into making this decision include the lack of available space for the anticipated event size, the lack of support from operating businesses at the airport and the Tacoma Narrows Airport Advisory Commission, the potential impact on the endangered species that reside at the airport, and numerous complaints from surrounding property owners during past Wings and Wheels events.”
La Stella countered that endangered species aren’t an issue because TEC performs an environmental study as part of its event contract. The 2021 airshow received fewer than 10 complaints versus more than 200 positive responses.
Wings & Wheels unlikely to return
The events commission, which La Stella said incurred $50,000 in production expenses, had intended to revert to its Fourth of July weekend schedule next year. But now is isn’t likely to be coming back.
“It is doubtful the airshow will return in the future as now Pierce County has lost credibility with the event planning community and would have a difficult time getting either civilian or military planes to come back,” La Stella said.
The TEC created Wings & Wheels in 2010 as an offshoot of its annual Fourth of July Freedom Fair airshow on the Tacoma waterfront. The Freedom Fair also has been canceled this summer.
Two years ago it was halted by the pandemic. Last summer, about 4,500 people attended when the event was pared to only a drive-in airshow.