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Canadian Force's Snowbirds

The Royal Canadian Force Snowbirds perform at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana in 2008.

Warbirds will take to the Santa Maria skies once again this October, three years after the Thunder Over the Valley airshow grounded its aircraft. 

The Central Coast AirFest, a two-day airshow, will have its inaugural performance Oct. 6 and 7 at the Santa Maria Public Airport. Organizers are expecting attendance of around 15,000 to 20,000 people each day. 

Headlining the event will be the Snowbirds, Canada’s iconic 431 Air Demonstration and Military Aerobatics Squadron. 

"They're a flight demonstration team that flies nine aircraft," event coordinator Chris Kunkle said. "They'll be demonstrating various aerial maneuvers during their act.”

The Snowbirds’ purpose is to demonstrate the skill, professionalism and teamwork of the Canadian armed forces, Kunkle said. The Snowbirds were the first aerobatic team in the world to use music in their demonstrations, and they incorporate live commentary from the performing pilots during their routine.

"The really cool thing about this is every airshow is trying to get a jet team to their show because it makes it more interesting (and because of) its high energy and its precision," Kunkle said. "We got the luck of the draw as their only California airshow this season will be in Santa Maria."

On the ground, the airshow will feature displays and exhibits of military aircraft like F-18 Hornets, P-51 Mustangs and a C-130 Hercules. 

"We also have a Cal Poly alumni, Eric Tucker, who has a comedy routine with a Piper J-3 Cub (aircraft)," Kunkle said. "And another local, Sammy Mason, coming out of Santa Paula is going to be performing his high-energy biplane routine."

Kunkle said the Central Coast AirFest has no relation to the Thunder Over the Valley airshow, which was an annual staple of the Santa Maria summer for over two decades before it took a hiatus in 2015.

The show’s organizers are proud to bring an annual airshow back to the Santa Maria Valley.

"It's super exciting,” Kunkle said. “Just the interest within the city and all the people in the surrounding areas — I'm from an aviation background and family and to be able to share our lifestyle and interest with the public is pretty special.”

Local restaurants, food trucks, wineries and breweries will be on hand during the event. There will also be kids’ area, a VIP tent where guests and performers can find some shade and refreshments, along with tents offering merchandise and other goods.

Kunkle said the goal is to involve different parts of the community in the event.

“We're going to have local ag manufacturers here showing off their new equipment, give nonprofits the opportunity to have a booth out there — just trying to bring the whole community to one place,” Kunkle said. “With the beer garden, food trucks, tractors, kids' zone, aircraft — it brings together a huge group. And that's what we're trying to do."

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

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Razi Syed covers Santa Maria City Government for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.  Follow him on Twitter @razisyed


Santa Maria City Government