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Air show wraps up three days of thrills for Chicago lakefront audience


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Updated: September 21, 2012 6:31AM

Sunny skies, a soothing breeze, pounding sonic booms and the excitement of being part of a lakefront crowd brought an estimated 2 million people to the 54th annual Chicago Air & Water Show this past weekend.

The screaming jets, ever-popular U.S. Navy Blue Angels and dive-bombing aerobatic planes drew onlookers playing in the lake, walking along the Magnificent Mile and fulfilling long-planned family reunions.

Host radio station WBBM-AM (780) broadcast play-by-play action from tents set up throughout the lakeshore. Onlookers craned their necks as they focused skyward while walking, biking, steering baby strollers and Radio Flyers filled with children and sitting in tents, lawnchairs and on blankets in the sand.

Jack Schindler, 74, a retired corporate re-insurance risk expert, has been coming to the show for more than 30 years, even though he has a bird’s-eye view from his Old Town home of the Blue Angels as they travel toward Oak Street Beach.

“I can see the numbers on each of the planes when the Blue Angels come in along Eugenie Street,” said Schindler, a volunteer with the Executive Service Corps who advises not-for-profit agencies. “And the windows rattle.”

On Sunday, Schindler was walking home from a movie when he decided to divert to the lakefront.

“I am enjoying myself while my wife reads and tends to her flowers,” he said of wife Judi, an actress and public relations representative.

He was pleased that, for a “Type A” personality like himself, the show’s acts appeared speeded up, and he never tires of his favorites — jets, skydivers and airplane aerobatics.

For Lavanya Prabu, 38, an instruction assistant from Hillsborough, N.J., her first viewing of the Chicago Air & Water Show resulted from her online search for water-related activities for her two children while she was visiting sister Karthi Anandakumar, 35, of north suburban Lindenhurst.

“We saw an air and water show once in Pennsylvania, so we knew this would be a good activity for the family,” said Prabu, who with Anandakumar stood motionless staring up at the airplanes making loops and hearts from their trailing smoke.

Anne and James Heger, a nurse and cardiologist, respectively, from Fort Wayne, Ind., used their condo on Lake Shore Drive as a jumping-off point to see their third show, and this year, to bring home their four grown children and Heger’s dad.

Anne’s favorites? The Blue Angels and the stunt planes, as well as gathering together daughters Monica, 31, a New York science journalist; Stephanie, 29, an economics doctoral student; Julie, 24, an Indianapolis social worker; son Brian, 26, an English teacher in the Dominican Republic, and dad George Keller, 88, of Indianapolis.

Amy Lutes and Bill Anderson, friends from Hampshire, Ill., and Elgin, respectively, traveled by train to see their Lutes’ first Air & Water Show and Anderson’s first in 20 years.

“We’re enjoying the weather,” said Lutes, a high-school business teacher, as the two sat on a blanket in the sand.

Tom and Michelle John of Glenwood never tire of the show after 15 years.

For Michelle, 43, it’s all about the fast-screaming jets and the sonic booms.

Tom, 45, got to go up in a four-seater Cessna with his cousin, who flies for United Airlines, and appreciates the pilot’s skills.

“I totally liked it,” he said.

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