NAF pre-show festivities anticipate and celebrate Blue Angels show

C-130 Pilot, Mark Montgomery, poses with children.

SEELEY — Food and family fun abounded at Hangar 6 Friday night as locals gathered in celebration and anticipation of the upcoming Blue Angels Air Show. The Naval Air Facility (NAF) El Centro hosted its 20th annual Entertainment and Food Festival at the Navy base, where Imperial Valley residents were treated to a meet and greet of the famous Blue Angels pilots and team.

Beginning at 5:30 p.m., the free event offered food from local restaurants such as Famous Daves, Carrows, Kotori, Ma Lupes, Kennedy’s Carne, Coldstone Creamery, and more.  Blue Angels officers, pilots, and crew members mingled with the public and turned into a main attraction for children and families as the officers made themselves approachable and available to the crowd.

“This is one of the best events that we do throughout the year,” remarked Mark Montgomery, a C-130T Hercules aircraft pilot who flies the famous “Fat Albert.” “We’ve practiced and lived here since January, but this is our first time interacting with the community.”

“The event is great because it’s about the community, not the air show. These are people we want to influence and inspire,” Montgomery emphasized.

While vendors were located inside Hangar 6, the event spread out under the open sky as long tables with family-style seating were set up outside. Community members munched on kettle corn and dinner while two live bands entertained the crowd, including the Navy Band, “Destroyers,” who boasted a diverse contemporary repertoire. Later in the evening, the public was treated to a motocross performance and the evening ended with a fireworks display.

The famous Navy Blue Angels flying team is comprised of 17 officers, nine pilots, seven jet pilots, and three C-130 pilots.  The total present in the team’s winter training home of Imperial Valley, including an enlisted maintenance and support team, equals 60 members. With a permanent station in Pensacola, Florida, the Blue Angels perform daring flying exhibitions in dozens of communities across the country.    

The group was formed in 1946 to “showcase the pride and professionalism of the United States Navy and Marine Corps by inspiring a culture of excellence and service to country through flight demonstrations and community outreach,” according to a website post.