The rumble of bombers and fighter jets over South Beach on Saturday could be heard from the shoreline and reverberating off city buildings, signaling the start of Memorial Day weekend as the annual Hyundai Air & Sea Show drew excited spectators to the beach.
The two-day military celebration, first held in South Beach in 2017, kicked off with hours of flyovers from aircrafts like the classic, eight-engine B-52 bomber and the sleek, supersonic F-16 jet.
Crowds gathered at the show’s ticketed viewing area on the beach at 14th Street and on the public beach, where tourists took photos of the aerial acrobatics and marine training demonstrations.
Guests in the ticketed area were treated to meet-and-greets with members of the US Army Golden Knights and British Army Red Devils parachute teams. People also had an opportunity to high-five military personnel and take selfies after an ocean-rescue demo.
South Beach’s Art Deco buildings served as a beautiful backdrop to the airplane flyovers, said Air Force veteran Willy Williams, who is in Miami training for his job as a cargo pilot out of Houston.
“You could be flying crop dusters out here and people would still want to come here,” Williams said.
Air Force logistics officer Rob Vespe attended the show with his sons RJ, 10, and Nicolas, 7, who grabbed a photo with the Golden Knight parachute team after the group landed on the sand near the 12th Street lifeguard stand.
It was their first time at the South Beach event, though Vespe said he has been to similar military exhibitions in Homestead and Jacksonville.
“When you put the Miami twist on it, it’s very unique,” he said.
Visitors to a free display area in Lummus Park between 14th and 11th streets posed with tanks, while others participated in physical fitness challenges or got free fries from a Checkers food truck.
The accompanying music varied from party songs, “Party Up” by DMX, to more patriotic anthems, “Proud to be an American” by Lee Greenwood. And there was the bleak playing of “Taps,” the bugle melody played at military funerals.
Many spectators dressed in American-flag apparel and some wore military attire. Food, water, beer and cocktails were for sale ($12 burgers, $11 cocktails, $7 beers and $3 water bottles) and visitors could choose from laying a towel on the beach or watching the festivities from a shaded bar or premium cabana seating.
“You can’t beat that,” Williams, the Air Force veteran, said as he smiled while watching an F-16 fly high above Ocean Drive.
Saturday’s festivities cap off with a concert from 3 Doors Down and a fireworks display after the music ends at 10 pm The Air & Sea Show returns to South Beach Sunday at 11:15 am