LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Strong winds and heavy rains brought the third day of the Sun ‘n Fun Aerospace Expo to a screeching halt.
“I think it takes away the sun of Sun ‘n Fun and then it takes away a bit of the fun but it’s a good time,” said Derek Sponagle, from the company Fastsensor.
He covered his company’s equipment with plastic bags to protect it from the rain.
“This is a sensor we have set up for measuring how many people come inside this booth,” he said.
Regulars agree – there is bound to be one day of nasty weather during Sun ‘n Fun.
“Important that the weekend is going to be probably the most amount of people so I imagine, according to the forecast, the sun’ll be out again. Better to have the rain in the beginning, get it over with,” said Sponagle.
The storm clouds came not long after the sensors were hastily covered.
Air shows were off and people were undercover.
“Pretty much there’s always one day that’s not very good,” said Largo’s Charlie Bellino, who has volunteered at Sun ‘n Fun for 29 years.
Thursday morning, the team got a refresher on weather-related protocols.
“Building safety, which buildings to go to that are safe, make sure your people are safe. Make sure the crowds are aware,” he said. “Before the weather started, you saw they did even the little things, like tipping over the cones to make sure they didn’t blow or hit an airplane or become a flying object.”
Event-goers have experience with destructive weather at Sun ‘n Fun.
In 2011, a strong line of storms damaged dozens of planes.
“I was warning everybody, my son’s 11 years old, to hide under the desk at the exhibitor’s office,” said Bellino.
Rain or shine – there is a subset of people who are just happy to be here.
“Missing the last two years was for me personally a disaster because I love the show so much,” said Sebastian Glueck.
With his company ScaleWings, Glueck creates replicas of WWII warcraft.
Being from Germany, he was unable to attend last year due to global travel restrictions.
The 2020 event was canceled at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Now I’m back and it’s like seeing all the faces you already know back and giving them a hug and talking about good old times. It’s incredible,” said Glueck.
Sun ‘n Fun runs through Sunday.