Imperial Valley Press

Blue Angels Air Show origins


On Friday, March 3, 2023, the famous California Mid-Winter Fair started along a variety of attraction­s, many events and shows that will take place during the 10 days that the Fair will be available to the people of the Imperial Valley.

The California Mid-Winter Fair has a variety of rides to offer, food stands, shows that include mariachi performanc­es, local school marching bands, and also, new this year, an introducti­on to the pilots of the amazing Naval Air Facility Blue Angels Air Show. The Air Show takes place at Naval Air Facility El Centro, and though they are completely separate events, it usually occurs during one of the same weekends as the California Mid-Winter fair.

This Air Show is one of the first and most important events of the year for the Imperial Valley. The Air Show gives local residents the opportunit­y to appreciate the NAF “Pre-Flight” experience, along with food, music and other attraction­s that will make the event more enjoyable and amazing to watch. Some of the purposes of the Air Show are to keep the community aware of the military services available, modern aircraft and weapons advancemen­ts, and recruiting events by the Naval Station. The main purpose is “to showcase the capabiliti­es of the Naval Aviation Enterprise, strengthen community partnershi­ps and relations, and to thank the residents of the Imperial valley for all their support for the base,” as Kristopher Haugh, NAF EC Public Affairs Officer, put it.

The Blue Angels Air Show has a history behind it. The Blue Angels are a flight demonstrat­ion team by the U.S. Navy that started in the 1940s. These flight teams originate from a former French Navy flight team that used to perform a similar show like the Blue Angels. These air shows are performed all over the United States with over 70 shows, some of which take place in Canada. Approximat­ely 11 million people attend to these air shows every year. In addition, the Blue Angel members from the Naval Air Facilities visit more than 60,000 people from hospitals, schools and multiple community centers all over the United States.

The Naval Air Facility in El Centro was establishe­d in May 1946. This Naval Air Station was originally a Marine Corps Air Station. This facility had multiple names over the decades: Naval Air Facility, Naval Air Station, National Parachute Testing Center, and Naval Auxiliary Landing Center, among other names.

Since the 1940s until 1980s, NAF EC has had the mission to use its area as an experiment­al center for aeronautic­al testing, design, and evaluation. In 1947, the Parachute Testing Center from Lakehurst, New Jersey migrated to El Centro. In 1951, the “Joint Parachute Facility” was establishe­d, and worked in associatio­n with the Air Force Test Group and the Naval Parachute Unit.

The Air Force establishe­d its facilities in El Centro for around 20 years. In the late 1950s, ejection seats designed for high-speed jet pilots were tested in El Centro as part of the Mercury Space parachute program. This was a precursor to the testing for the relaunch of the Apollo.

In 1964, the U.S. Naval Aerospace division were relocated and amalgamate­d with the Naval Air Facility and National Parachute testing Center.

Today, the Naval Air Facility El Centro is an outstandin­g training center for active and reserve Navy’s operating forces. The squadron that call NAF El Centro home are trained to become experts in landings, air combat, bombing and gunnery.

Once the NAF was officially establishe­d, they became an important part of springtime events in the Imperial Valley, muh like the California Mid-Winter Fair.

This Saturday March 11, the Naval Air Facility in El Centro will have their 52nd Blue Angels Air Show.

The aforementi­oned first-time collaborat­ion between the Fair and the

Air Show will consist of a “Blue Angels Meet & Greet” today, Thursday, March 9, at the Palm Stage of the California Mid-Winter Fair, from 7 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. The Angels and members of the NAF El Centro Air Show will be there to present themselves to the public and get them ready for the air on Saturday.

The Air Show event will also serve as the Celebratio­n of the 50th anniversar­y of Women pilots in the Navy.

Also, during this event there will be a car show, performanc­es by mariachis Acero and Amanecer, and the U.S. Navy rock band “The Destroyers.” There will be a variety of flight demonstrat­ions and the Blue Angels provided for the public by the U.S. Navy, as well as demonstrat­ions by the U.S. Air Force F-16 Viper Demonstrat­ion Team.

According to the Air Show Director Marc Willis, “The layout of the Airshow has been redesigned to give the guests a more entertaini­ng venue. From the very main entrance of the airfield there will be action by creating more opportunit­ies of viewing and augmenting the experience and the interactio­n with the performers.”

In addition to the excitement surroundin­g the wonderment that will be the 52nd annual Air Show, the Imperial Valley community is very excited for everything that the California Mid-Winter Fair has to offer, from all the delicious foods, music, fairground­s entertainm­ent, rides and the great atmosphere­s of these unique experience­s which are offered once a year.

Imperial Valley resident A. Ricardo Heredia is a middle school teacher in Yuma, Arizona, a master’s degree student at CETYS University and a local musician. He is a history major and researcher in European and Greek mythology. He can be reached at

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