Rhode Island National Guard cancels 2019 air show

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels fly in formation during a performance at the Rhode Island National Guard Air Show at Quonset State Airport in North Kingstown, Sunday, June 9, 2018. (Submitted Photo)

The Rhode Island National Guard said Thursday that it has canceled its annual Open House Air Show for 2019.

The guard said it anticipates that too many troops will be deployed next year to put on the air show, which is one of the biggest events of the summer.

"Hundreds of key National Guard members will be called to federal duty overseas in support of the RING's primary mission of national defense," a news release said.

The National Guard said it's the first time since the show began in 1991 that it's been called off because of deployments. The 2013 air show was canceled because of federal budget cuts.

"With this anticipated federal mobilization commitment in 2019, we have been presented with a difficult decision regarding our ability to safely and effectively conduct this public event. The volume, timing, and the particular trained skill sets of the more than 500 Soldiers and Airmen who will be away during the traditional timeframe of the Open House Air Show presents a unique challenge," Maj. Gen. Christopher Callahan said in a statement. "Ultimately, we could neither compromise the training and support of those being deployed, nor the planning and conducting of our Open House Air Show. As such, we regrettably must forego the event in 2019."

The air show was to take place June 29-30 at Quonset State Airport. The Air Force Thunderbirds were scheduled to be the featured performer.

The air show benefits Hasbro Children's Hospital, as well as several other organizations. It's raised $1.5 million for the hospital since the air show began more than 25 years ago, garnering about $75,000 last year alone.

“We were saddened to learn of the cancellation of next year’s Rhode Island Air Show and, more importantly, the deployment of our service men and women. Our hearts are with everyone in uniform, and we wish them a safe return home,” said Dr. Margaret M. Van Bree, MHA, DrPH.

The guard said it plans to bring the show back in 2020.

"I don't mind there being a little hunger for 2020," Callahan said. "Bring on 2020. That will be a fun part of the year."

Kristin Urbach of the North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce said the town is disappointed but anticipates the air show’s return.

“It is unfortunate, as many people look forward to attending each year -- 85,000, I believe, over the course of two days,” she said. “It’s also great for our local economy because we have a lot of people come from out of town, stay in our hotels shop and dine locally.”

Due to a National Guard policy, it can’t release details about the deployment yet.

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