An enthusiastic John “Lites” Leenhouts, Sun ’n Fun Aerospace Expo president and CEO, breathlessly told AOPA Editor Kollin Stagnito that he was “ecstatic” over the attendance at the forty-seventh annual event. “This is absolutely unbelievable,” Leenhouts said. “We never, ever expected to have this large of a turnout; it may be a record-setting event.”
This after cancellation of the 2020 event and consideration just two months prior to this year’s scheduled dates to reconsider even putting on the annual show. Staff members had anticipated a 25-percent reduction in attendance but were proved wrong. Camping sites sold out, the event staff had to add two more parking areas, and a record number of aircraft stayed from Monday through the conclusion of the show on Saturday. “We moved the cows and opened an additional seven to eight acres to accommodate campers,” Leenhouts said.
Leenhouts remarked on the weekend attendance as local Florida residents are offered a pass that allows them to buy Saturday admission and get Sunday free. “We’ve never seen that kind of activity. There were 10,000 cars in the parking lot; that means a minimum 35,000 to 40,000 people on Saturday alone,” he said.
“The skies were clear and the pathway to get in was open. We had a board member refuel in Knoxville, take off, and be told by ATC to ‘follow everyone else’” Leenhouts said. “I’ve never seen anything like this; the world is open for business.”