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Cheyenne Frontier Days airshow canceled after loss of Thunderbirds

The Thunderbirds have been a staple of Cheyenne Frontier Days since 1953.

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The 2023 Wings Over Warren airshow has been canceled after the loss of its headline act.

The 90th Missile Wing announced this summer's airshow will not take place after the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration team canceled its appearance.

The Thunderbirds determined that performing in Cheyenne "carries too much risk with lack of an approved emergency landing airfield nearby," F.E. Warren Air Force Base announced.

The airshow, which typically takes place during Cheyenne Frontier Days, had been scheduled for Wednesday, July 26. The Thunderbirds have been a staple of Cheyenne Frontier Days since their first demonstration in 1953. The team did not fly in 2020 due to cases of COVID-19 in the flight team.

"The closure of the large runway in Cheyenne is a key factor in this decision. After much discussion and consideration, cancelling the show for 2023 is the best way to ensure the safety of our community and the Thunderbirds," said Col. Catherine Barrington, 90 MW commander. "While we are sad to discontinue our airshow, we understand the risk that comes with performing and are grateful to the Thunderbirds for their many years of support."

The 90th Missile Wing said Cheyenne Regional Airport has been under intermittent construction for several years with more runway construction scheduled this summer.

In 2021 and 2022, the Thunderbirds flew their Cheyenne performance out of Northern Colorado Regional Airport in Loveland.

In 2022, one of the Thunderbird’s F-16 aircraft conducted an emergency landing in Fort Collins due to a hydraulic leak, spilling fluids across the runway after it landed. The 90th Missile Wing said this forced the rest of the team to divert across Denver International Airport (DIA) airspace and land at Buckley Space Force Base in Aurora, which has the closest necessary safety equipment for F-16 emergency landings.

"The team made the difficult decision, due to safety and logistics challenges operating deployed from Colorado, to not return to Cheyenne's airshow this season," said Lt. Col. Justin Elliott, Thunderbird 1 and team commander/leader. "While disheartened to part with this important tradition, we hope to see a fully-constructed runway allowing our safe return to Wings Over Warren in the future."

The 127th annual Cheyenne Frontier Days opens Friday, July 21, and runs through Sunday, July 30, in Cheyenne.

Held the last full week of every July since 1897 except for 2020, Frontier Days carried on through both World Wars and the Great Depression, when tough finances prompted it to become a mostly volunteer-run festival of rodeo, music concerts, parades and other events.

A complete Cheyenne Frontier Days schedule and event tickets can be found at CFDRodeo.com.

Credit: Chuck Dickerson

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