Updated 59 minutes ago
Those wanting to watch the aerial acrobatics of the Navy Blue Angels in the skies above the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport near Latrobe should be prepared for a chance of rain Saturday afternoon, but Sunday should dry, according to the National Weather Service in Pittsburgh.
Although the forecast calls for a 40 percent chance of rain Saturday, the opening day of the Shop ‘n Save Westmoreland County Airshow, NWS meteorologist John Darnley said he believes it will be less likely in the Latrobe area. The weather system that produced heavy rains at times on Friday should move east by Saturday, he said.
“I think it is going to be a decent day,” Darnley said.
Winds out of the west-northwest Saturday morning will be between 15 mph and 18 mph with a low ceiling for cloud cover. Morning fog should burn off before noon, and the high could reach 74 degrees, Darnley said.
Airshow gates open at 9 a.m. and the first event is set for 11:33 a.m. — with the Army Golden Knights scheduled to parachute onto the airport grounds. The schedule is the same for both days.
Sunday’s forecast offers more hope for airshow enthusiasts, with mostly clear skies and lighter winds.
“It should be a comfortable day,” with temperatures in the 70s, Darnley said.
That’s unlike Friday, when constant rain canceled a demonstration flight by the Blue Angels and a parachute jump by the Golden Knights. None of the stunt pilots were able to take practice runs.
The Westmoreland County Airport Authority, which operates the airport, is expecting a crowd of about 25,000 on Saturday and double that — 50,000 — on Sunday, said Gabe Monzo, airport authority executive director.
“Hopefully, everything will go off without a hitch,” Monzo said.
Weather plays a big role in the size of the airshow crowds. Three years ago, the event drew an estimated 150,000 people to watch the Blue Angels perform.
The airshow draws such a crowd that hotels in the Latrobe area are booked for the weekend, said Michael Simons, general manager of the Springhill Suites by Marriott Pittsburgh Latrobe, which is across from the airport.
Rooms also are booked for the weekend at Wingate by Wyndham Latrobe, located near the intersection of routes 30 and 981 in Unity.
“We love the airshow. It brings a lot of business to the area. It’s good for everyone around us,” said a Wingate spokeswoman.
Nearby Sharky’s Cafe, whose outdoor porch offers views of aerial demonstrations over the airport, “will be extremely busy for the airshow,” said Tom Hill, restaurant manager.
A good turnout means more money for the volunteer fire departments from Latrobe, Derry, Derry Township and Unity, which receive proceeds from manning parking areas for the airshow.
Firefighters share proceeds with student organizations from Greater Latrobe High School, said Pete Tenerowicz, Unity’s emergency management director.
Latrobe’s Hose Company No. 6 uses the money to buy equipment and reduce debt, Latrobe Fire Chief John Brasile said.
“It helps to cover operating expenses. We need a good turnout,” Tenerowicz said.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-5252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.