While there hasn’t been an airshow in Smithers since 1999, and the hope there will be another one anytime soon is now gone. The society has now formally dissolved.
The first show was organized in 1993 with the Canadian Snowbirds as the featured entertainment. It was deemed a success and organizers agreed to bring back the show every two years.
Board member Anita Tomayer said the organization had an enthusiastic group mainly made up of airport employees and airport tenants such as Central Mountain Air and Highland Helicopters. She added many other service groups and schools also pitched in to help run the shows.
The airshows in 1995 and 1997 were held with various success but the group went into debt after the show in 1997. Tomayer said it took a lot of fundraising, negotiations with creditors and private donations from board members to stay afloat.
She said the show in 1999 had a much better outcome and all the bills were paid. A firm commitment was made to apply for donations for the next show, scheduled for 2001.
Before that show, a few things changed that would eventually decide the fate of future airshows.
The Town of Smithers became the operator of the airport and Tomayer said there weren’t the same number of employees to help with the show. Other organizers had also moved on.
Then there was 9-11. The terrorism acts in the U.S. caused insurance rates to sky-rocket, making a small airshow in Smithers unattainable.
“We used to be able to get insurance for about $2,500 for the day but now we have to pay around $25,000,” said board member Gord Beerda.
And that is money that the society doesn’t have or can bring in for one show.
Beerda and Tomayer were the only two remaining board members so they finally decided to close the doors and donate the remaining money in the bank account to community groups.
The Bulkley Valley Search and Rescue Group got the largest chunk of it, receiving almost $10,000. They’ve used the money to purchase technology and programs to help with searches.
The society also gave $500 to the Bulkley Valley RC Flyers.