(Photo: U.S. Navy Photo)
A Tampa Bay tradition that's loved by pilots around the country revs back up in Lakeland.
The skies over Polk County will be buzzing this week with the sounds of planes coming for the 40th anniversary of the Sun 'n Fun International Fly-In.
This year, Sun 'n Fun will definitely live up to its name. The weather forecast looks great. And you want fun? Just look up.
The U.S. Navy's Blue Angels will roar over Lakeland Linder Airport with performances Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons.
This will be their first appearance here in their home state since budget cuts forced them to cancel nearly all of their shows last year.
And they're just the headliners for a big, busy festival.
The expo has 500 vendors. There are things designed for little kids, teens, and grown-ups. And there are airshows from 3 to 6 every afternoon, plus a night airshow with fireworks on Saturday.
Florida residents can buy a ticket to Saturday and get in Sunday for free. Or, if you come just Sunday, you can get a discounted ticket.
Expect a nice economic boost for the area from the festival; the event's president says ticket sales are up 2 1/2 times over a normal year.
Two hundred thousand people are expected to attend and many of them are from far away, including more than 80 different countries.
The organizers have to pay the FAA around $200,000 to run air traffic control for the event.
The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association joined up with the City of Lakeland and Polk County to come through with cash to pay that bill.
The money that Sun 'n Fun is now able to raise will go to several impressive education programs for kids and teenagers who are interested in aviation.
The festival is centered at the Sun 'n Fun grounds at 4175 Medulla Road in Lakeland, right next to Lakeland Linder Airport.
There are also a couple of special events in Polk City at Fantasy of Flight.
This is the final week Fantasy of Flight will be open to the public. It closes down as an attraction after Sun 'n Fun comes to an end on Sunday.