Air Fair To Share Celebration Costs

October 17, 2005
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MUSKEGON — The Muskegon Air Fair and Summer Celebration are coming together under one roof — but organizers promise they will keep their individuality.

The Muskegon Air Fair’s board of directors did not renew a contract with Grevious and Associates, which has run the air fair for two years, in favor of joining Muskegon Summer Celebration Inc., also a nonprofit, and combining resources to benefit both events.

Chris Kelly, chairman of the Air Fair board, said the change was made for a variety of reasons, but chiefly because of economics.

“As prices go up and attendance is going down, we need to make some changes,” he said. One of the major questions was how to increase income while decreasing expenses. “With the Summer Celebration opportunity, it kind of helped on both fronts.”

Because there is already a management team in place at Summer Celebration whose salary is paid by the event, the Air Fair will only share costs instead of hiring a separate management team. Summer Celebration Executive Director Joe Austin explained that both events would be run by the Summer Celebration management team, which now has two full-time employees and three part-time employees. Austin said some of the part-time positions would be expanded, and a full-time site manager would be hired to work on both events. Together the events have a budget of about $4 million.

“It certainly will be a cost savings,” Austin said.

Kelly said there also will be benefits to the sponsors of both events.

“We now can package sponsorships, we can package advertising, we can package lots of things that will give sponsors and customers a variety of choices,” he said.

The Air Fair board of trustees, committees and volunteers will stay intact.

“We don’t see this as a takeover, we see this more as a consolidation of management,” he said.

Austin said the people who have been working with the Air Fair over the last 23 years are essential for the management transition.

“Most of them look like they’re going to return,” Austin said after meeting with volunteers. “The people that were there (at the meeting) love the Air Fair.”

Though the Summer Celebration staff has had 13 years of experience with ground events, Austin said aviation is a whole new level to deal with, which will require help from those who have scaled those heights.

“It’s a daunting task to look at the details to bringing in some of these aviation performances,” he said.

The Muskegon Air Fair board also will remain intact, Kelly said.

Having the events run by the same organization also will eliminate the chance of having them take place at the same time, which has happened in the past. Austin said it will benefit volunteers by enabling them to easily work for both events.

Austin said the events will stay as separate entities, but possibilities of expanding the Air Fair to include more concerts or other events will be considered. If new events are added, they will most likely not be seen this coming year.

“I think we’ll take things slowly,” he said.

Terry Grevious, who founded the air show 23 years ago and started Grevious and Associates two years ago, said it was time for the company to part ways with the Muskegon Air Fair. Grevious and Associates also manages the Dayton Air Show and is looking into other areas to expand into larger team-jet shows.

“It really opens up a new opportunity for us to open a program in other communities,” he said.

Grevious said he is confident in the Summer Celebration staff’s management of the event from the ground, but believes they will need help with the aviation side of the event.

“I think they’ll do fine,” he said.

Grevious said not being a part of the Air Fair will be different after all these years.

“It’s certainly a change for us,” he said. “It’s probably time to move on to do other things, something a little more challenging for us. … We’re kind of excited looking forward to what else we can do.”    

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