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Wed, Mar 29, 2023

SUN ‘n FUN 2023 Introduces 'The Island'

At the Center of It All …

A new leader has brought a number of forward-thinking changes to Lakeland, Florida’s SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo—one of North America’s best-loved aerospace events and the Sunshine State’s largest annual convention.

SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo president and CEO Gene Conrad—who served as director of Lakeland Linder International Airport (LAL) for 12-years prior to taking over the SUN ‘n FUN top job following the retirement of former organization boss John Leenhouts—stated: "I had the opportunity to go around and talk to all of our volunteers, talk to guests, talk to our exhibitors and vendors and listen.”

Mr. Conrad has worked to improve Wi-Fi infrastructure for SUN ‘n FUN attendees and created a new area called The Island, sponsored by the Islands of the Bahamas.

Surrounded by seaplanes and situated at the heart of SUN ‘n FUN’s revised aircraft camping areas, The Island serves as a hub at which arriving pilots may see to the logistical needs peculiar to aircraft camping. In addition to restrooms, showers, and a storefront offering various and sundry aircraft camping needs, The Island features a café serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner; a variety of food vendors; grocery delivery; an Uber terminal; and a new tram system hub.

"It's really the social hub and the hub of all activities for all of our aircraft, all of our friends flying in for the event," Mr. Conrad remarked.

The Island, in essence, is a de facto town square at which SUN ‘n FUN attendees will find and enjoy a Pilot Welcome Center, a stage for forums and movies, and a gathering area at which showgoers may reconnect with old friends and make new ones while sharing aviation yarns over food, drinks, and entertainment.

Wayne Hitchcock of Shelbyville, Tennessee said of The Island: "It'll be really nice for the guys that are camping out here with their airplanes to not have to go anywhere because that's an inconvenience to get off [property].”

To the subject of SUN ‘n FUN parking, Mr. Conrad stated: "We need you to get your parking online. It's ten-dollars when you get to the gate, we'll have people with scanners. We'll click and then they're gonna send you on your way. But if you don't get it online, it's twenty-bucks at the gate."

To cover the cost of greatly expanded youth programs and attractions, SUN ‘n FUN 2023 raised the age for children’s free admission from six-years-old to ten-years-old.

Aerospace Center for Excellence executive director Eric Crump explained: "Our job is to make sure that all of the millions of children that live within a hundred miles of this airport, get the chance to understand what aviation is. … Children can participate this year in Junior Aces, a series of hands-on activities. From soldering a radio to learning how to build an airport to actually doing buck riveting and building an airplane. Everything from flight simulation to robotics, technology and weather and meteorology.”

Children attending SUN ‘n FUN 2023 will be issued passports in which they can collect stickers from participating stations on the event grounds, then return the duly-stickered passport to Buehler Restoration Skills Hanger where they’ll be exchanged for a tool kit.

The SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo is the Aerospace Center for Excellence’s (ACE) principal annual fundraiser. The Center serves the critical functions of introducing young people to the aerospace sector’s myriad wonders and career opportunities, and providing guidance germane to the exploration of such.

Mr. Crump set forth: "There's a dire need for pilots, mechanics, dispatchers, air traffic controllers. Everything in the aviation system needs people right now.”

The 2023 SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo runs through Sunday, 02 April.



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