Libertyfest, air show moving to airport

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Citing safety as the reason, organizers of the 2008 Libertyfest and the Cape Girardeau Regional Air Festival announced the Fourth of July event will move to Cape Girardeau Regional Airport.

The 3 to 11 p.m. schedule remains the same and no admission will be charged, they said in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon.

Chris Hutson, Old Town Cape's board president, said the high water of the Mississippi River posed too great a risk.

"Our first concern must be for the safety of everyone involved, not only the spectators but the performers, technicians and rescue personnel as well," he said in a written statement.

This was the first year for a joint Libertyfest-air show event. Airport manager Bruce Loy and Old Town cape executive director Marla Mills said they were "extremely disappointed" about the move but emphasized the decision was made for safety reasons.

The Mississippi River is expected to crest at 43.5 feet Tuesday, and forecasters do not believe the water will abate quickly enough by the Fourth of July.

John Mehner, president of the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce, said he was disappointed but "I'm not in a position to second-guess a move based on safety. ... It's a shame. It would be another part of what we're experiencing from the floods. We can't control that."

The news upset Cape Girardeau resident Nathan Cromwell, who said he'd planned to attend the free downtown event with his wife and their 2-year-old daughter. But he is disabled and doesn't drive, he said. Cab fare would be too expensive for his family, and he wondered whether people who do drive would skip the event because of gas prices.

"The city needs to think about what they're doing. I've talked to a lot of people, and they're not happy about this," he said.

He said the event would draw more people to the airport if some type of shuttle service was offered.

Loy said discussions are already underway with Cape County Transportation Authority officials to offer some form of mass transit.

"Our hope is we'd be able to provide several rounds of transportation for people from the downtown areas from one of the typical stops," he said. "We completely understand their situation."

Loy said another issue as yet undecided is whether alcohol will be sold during the event. In any case, it's too late for him to apply for a temporary permit, so such sales would have to be catered, he said.

"When we do sell beer at the air show, we keep it confined to the beer tent area," he said. Transportation and alcohol sales are just two of a series of optional details being worked out, he said. "This is all so fresh, we're going to have to discuss all those possible scenarios," he said.

"It's going to be a great event regardless of where we hold it, a nice patriotic event. I think people will really enjoy it. We're going to do everything we can to host our typical good show."

Other cancellations

The announcement caused a domino effect of other cancellations. First Friday was rescheduled to July 11. Ducks on the Mississippi, the cancer-research fundraiser sponsored by the Southside and Esprit Optimist clubs of Cape Girardeau, is canceled for now.

"I can see no way to go ahead and do it responsibly," said Barb Schwepker of the Esprit Optimist Club, adding, "There's no place at the airport to have a duck race. The flood gates won't be open, and with all the debris in the river at this time ... It will go on, and when it does it'll be bigger and better."

The club will meet Tuesday night to decide whether the fundraiser will be rescheduled for Labor Day weekend.

For event details, visit www.capeairfestival.com or www.oldtowncape.org, or call Old Town Cape at 334-8085 or the Cape Air Festival at 334-6230.

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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