Speer: Like a cruel April Fool’s Day prank

Back when I was a young reporter covering news out of Martins Ferry, Ohio, for my newspaper I remember a page one photograph I took of a freakish April 1 dusting of snow.

Someone had scribbled April Fool’s on the front windshield of a car so I took the photograph and ultimately it made page one of the newspaper the next day. For that area, a snow April 1 was unheard of.

Of course, here in Northeast Michigan April 1 is just another day in winter paradise. I’m beginning to think we might still have snow on the ground at Memorial Day the way this winter is going. We can’t seem to string two days back-to-back with the temperature above 40 degrees. We still are experiencing snow and ice.

With snow on the ground since the third week of October, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen green on the ground.

I don’t know about you, but I could use a major chlorophyll fix any day now.

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The news this week about summer activities in Alpena was not encouraging. After a summer filled with extra visits from tour groups, reality television shows and special interest organizations, this week we learned two items already on the calendar in 2014 were being canceled.

First, the cruise ship Yorktown will not be returning to Alpena. The decision has absolutely nothing to do with the community but rather, a lack of demand for Great Lakes cruising this year from consumers.

Certainly that is disappointing, but it pales in my mind to the cancellation of the Wings over Alpena 2014 show. Andy White, chairman of the air show, indicated a number of factors contributed to the cancellation, including the local economy and the fact the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center was not going to be available because of scheduled repairs and maintenance in that August timeframe.

“It is with great disappointment that we announce the cancellation of the 2014 Wings Over Alpena air show … Due to lack of funding, support, and staffing, the air show will not be held this year and no future shows are planned as of this time.”

I could almost feel the anxiety that I know Andy must have been feeling when he wrote that paragraph.

Wings over Alpena had grown into an event that drew fans from across the region, state and Midwest. As far as air shows go, it was considered “the real deal” from show participants, vendors, exhibitors and sponsors.

While Andy said no future shows are being planned, I hope that doesn’t hold true.

I hope Alpena Convention and Visitors Bureau President Mary Beth Stutzman brings together those involved with past Wings over Alpena planning and objectively analyzes what happened this year. Was this year a fluke occurrence, or has support (financial and volunteer) for the event totally evaporated? Those answers should then lead to a whole set of other questions.

Ultimately, what is learned could be beneficial to any event planner, whether it is Wings, the Brown Trout or any group.

I hope the region hasn’t seen the end of a fascinating and entertaining air show.

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I appreciate how important it still is to Andy to honor Vietnam veterans this year, as was to have been the focus of this year’s air show.

Toward that extent he is teaming up with the folks at the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan to honor those veterans with a special event Sept. 26-27. The newspaper reported on the concept this week and will have more information about it in the months ahead.

Bill Speer can be reached via email at bspeer@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 354-3111 ext. 331. Follow Bill on Twitter @billspeer13. Read his blog, More BS?(Bill Speer) at www.thealpenanews.com.