EL CENTRO — With soaring aerobatic maneuvers, the Blue Angels U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Team attracted California visitors as well as those from neighboring states and both Canada and Mexico as they performed for an estimated a crowd of 55,000 at the Naval Air Facility El Centro Saturday.
For many, attending the air show is a tradition. According to the Rodriguez family, watching the Blue Angels air show has become a yearly family trek through the years. El Centro resident Gracie Rodriguez, who has been married to Victor Rodriguez for 42 years and counting, said her family has been watching the Blue Angels on and off these past 35 years. She also said her oldest son served in the Air Force for eight years.
“We hear them as they practice every day here in the Valley. We are from the Valley. We like to see them,” Rodriguez said.
She came ready for the outdoor venue of the air show, toting two folding chairs, snacks, drinks and a yellow and blue-patterned umbrella decorated with the Blue Angels seal and a Blue Angels Boeing F/A-18 Hornet aircraft. The family was seated about 30 feet from the temporary crowd control barrier with an unobstructed view of the event.
According to Rodriguez, she used to work near the Imperial County Airport and could see the iconic blue jets flying over all the time.
A mechanic at El Centro Motors, Victor Rodriguez said he has an affinity for engines. According to him, he could also see and hear the Blue Angels flying over during work. Even so, Victor still comes with his family to watch the demonstration at the Navy base. After all, this is a family tradition.
“I love airplanes. It is one of the greatest shows. We are the alma mater of the Blue Angels here in El Centro,” Victor Rodriguez said. He brought his camera equipment, not only to photograph the Blue Angels, but also to take photographs of military aircraft static displays.
Not far from them, Mariana Guzman, 8, played with her new toy, a Boeing F/A-18 Hornet aircraft. The energetic child landed it on the soil and held it up high and twirled as her mother folded their chair and umbrella. They were ready to go back home to Mexicali.
Guzman said she has a two-year-old brother, Maximiliano, who did not come with them. Guzman, who translated for her mother during an interview with The Desert Review newspaper, said she did not get another airplane for her brother.
“It is fragile.” She was afraid he might break it.
With a line stretching down the road, the visitors did not find the heavy traffic to the base a deterrent. The west bound four-mile stretch of traffic on West Evan Hewes Highway from Forrester Road to the NAF El Centro parking areas took about three hours. In addition to base military officers directing traffic, there was help from local law enforcement officers and the flow of traffic was orderly and without incident.
In an event program, Capt. Brent A. Alfonzo, U.S.N., commanding officer at NAF El Centro, welcomed visitors to the air show.
“We are privileged to have called El Centro and the Imperial Valley home for over 70 years and we look forward to being here for a long time. Though the great weather in El Centro is a driving force in the training we do here, the outstanding community support that we enjoy from the people of the Valley is the real key to our continued success,” said Capt. Alfonzo.