The Blue Angels and a handful of other aerial acts dazzled thousands Saturday at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
The air station's flightline was flooded with spectators taking in the first day of the 2011 Beaufort Air Show. The event, which the base stages every other year, continues today at 11 a.m.
Seeking shade under the wing of a MV-22 Osprey parked on the tarmac, Jon and Jane Russell of Summerville craned their necks toward the sky as a pair of bright-colored biplanes barreled toward the Earth before pulling up at the last-minute to again soar skyward.
The couple said they often travel to air shows across the region, and have regularly attended the air station's event in recent years.
"It's such a short drive for us, and it's a really great show," Jon Russell said. "You get to see all of these great civilian performers and the Blue Angels. I'm not sure it gets better than that."
The trek to Fightertown for Julian and Beverly Hossa was a bit lengthier.
The Hossas drove about 1,000 miles from Mississiauga, Ontario, to Beaufort in their RV this week as part of a yearlong road trip across the U.S. and Canada.
"We had heard for years about the Beaufort show but never made it down here," Beverly Hossa said from beneath an umbrella. "It's everything I thought it would be. The people are very friendly, the weather is gorgeous and it's a great air show. We'll probably go to five or six more this year but this one will be tough to beat."
Officials were unsure of the exact number of spectators in attendance Saturday but said the numbers appeared to exceed that of the first day in 2009 when about 100,000 people watched the show.
As in years past, the air show was headlined by the Blue Angels, a unit from Pensacola, Fla., formally known as the Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron.
Optimal weather conditions and cloudless skies Saturday allowed the team to perform its "high show," which features a number of high-altitude maneuvers.
To perform the "high" show, the Blue Angels require a cloud ceiling of at least 8,000 feet, according to the squadron's website.
Few left the air station disappointed Saturday.
"It was awesome," said 9-year-old Brody Stedtman of Yemassee as his family walked back to their car. "I didn't even know planes could do that. It was just so cool."