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60,000 turn out for blustery Jones Beach air show

A plane performs aerobatics during the 2013 Bethpage

A plane performs aerobatics during the 2013 Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach in Wantagh. (May 26, 2012) Credit: Ed Betz

Pilots at the Bethpage Air Show in Jones Beach took to the skies Sunday, pulling off rolls and back flips to a delighted but much lighter-than-normal crowd.

About 60,000 people braved cold, blustery conditions Sunday, a day after the air show's opening day was canceled for the first time in 10 years due to driving rain and heavy winds.

The attendance saw a sharp drop from last year's 367,000 over two days. In 2011, it was 246,000.

Aside from the weather, the show's smaller crowds may have been affected by the lack of its major headliner, after the U.S. Air Force's Thunderbirds canceled in April due to the federal "sequestration" budget cuts. A fighter jet from the Royal Canadian Air Force stepped in and closed the show.

State parks regional director George Gorman Jr. said the parks' infrastructure fund, which makes money from the $10 parking fee and merchandise and concession sales, is unlikely to see a long-term impact.

"We hope to make up for it during the summertime," Gorman said, noting next weekend's forecast was for 80-degree weather.

"It's great that we were able to reopen and able to rebuild" Jones Beach State Park, Gorman said. "It's a little windy, a little cold. But it's a great beginning to summer."

Almost a dozen acts participated in yesterday's show, ranging from historic World War II fighters and bombers to a stunt helicopter and a crop duster.

Following the Canadian and U.S. national anthems, the Raider Demo Team opened the show with propeller planes doing loops and weaves.

Danny Fucci, 7, gazed up. "I can't take my eyes off the plane," said the Nesconset boy, as his mother hurried him to their spot on the sand.

Stunt pilot David Windmiller, speaking from the cockpit of his propeller plane, said over the loudspeaker: "It's a little windy, a little cold, but we'll make the best of it" just before he buzzed over the Jones Beach shore.

Some Long Islanders lamented the lack of the Thunderbirds at Sunday's event.

"It's a shame," said Leonard Provenzano, 58 of Mineola, who has come to the air show every year.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said he heard complaints not only about the Thunderbirds but also the cancellation of a separate event, a demonstration military helicopter landing at Eisenhower Park. "Disappointment is the theme of most of this Memorial Day weekend," he said.

But Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who also came out to watch the show, said the event and the reopening of Jones Beach showed "resilience and toughness" after superstorm Sandy.

"Long Islanders, we never let anything get us down," he said. Then, he added: "Sometimes it seems the weather is conspiring against us."

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