Most of Saturday’s Bethpage Air Show was canceled because of rain, lightning and low cloud cover, but organizers are buoyed by the prediction of a picture-perfect day at Jones Beach on Sunday for the show’s second day.
Low clouds delayed the start of the show, but organizers were able to fit in a few flights before the cancellation was announced at 12:50 p.m. and spectators were ordered off the beach.
“We have to exercise caution to take whatever necessary actions to keep park visitors safe,” said State Parks Regional Director George Gorman, noting that “torrential rain and lightning” arrived shortly after 1:30 p.m.
The National Weather Service is forecasting sunny skies for Sunday at Jones Beach, with a high of 71.
“It looks like it’s a beautiful day,” Gorman said. “Right now there’s nothing we can see that will impact any performers.”
Some beachgoers took the cancellation in stride and said they would consider coming back Sunday, when the show is scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
"It's disappointing, but it was still fun,” said Joseph Carbone, 40, of Wading River. “We still got to see the Skytypers and F35s, if just for a short time."
Organizers had consulted with National Weather Service forecasters Saturday morning before the scheduled 10 a.m. start time and were initially hopeful that there would be enough of a weather window to allow the entire show to take place.
But low clouds delayed the first fighter jet flights. The first performance was of a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and four-man marine water rescue team that was not affected by the cloud cover.
Shortly before noon, the first fighter jet, an F35C, began circling the boardwalk, eliciting a long-awaited round of applause from the crowd.
The jet flipped upside down and made several passes over the water, its burners roaring as it went by.
After the F35C jets, the Geico Skytypers performed their stunt formations, painting the sky with exhaust trails. The five planes passed each other head-on, weaving back and forth before splitting apart and twisting a trail of smoke in their path.
The Skytypers then painted a heart over newly cleared blue sky and performed stunts to Ray Charles' version of "America the Beautiful."
But the blue skies wouldn't last. Some of the most eagerly awaited performances, including from the Blue Angels and the U.S. Army Golden Knights parachuters, were canceled.
“The crowd was entertained, but they did want more,” Gorman said.
Friday’s planned practice of the Blue Angels and other performers also was canceled, because of dense fog and low clouds.
Saturday was to be the first full-capacity air show day since 2019. COVID-19 led to the cancellation of the 2020 show, and last year’s was at 50% capacity.
Last year also was the first time that both scheduled days were rained out. Organizers moved performances to Memorial Day, the first time the show was held on the holiday since it began in 2004.
Gorman said about 32,000 people attended Saturday's performances and between 100,000 and 150,000 people were expected Sunday.
Even with the light rain and cool breeze before the show began, beachgoers streamed onto Jones Beach awaiting the start.
Kahlel Robinson and Alex Cruz, both of Valley Stream, had seen fighter jets in the new movie "Top Gun: Maverick," and they came to see the real thing.
Cruz said he hadn’t been to an air show since he was a child. Speaking after the initial cancellations, but before the remainder of Saturday's event was scrapped, Cruz said he was disappointed.
"I was looking forward to seeing it all,” he said.