Rain-shortened TBM Avenger event draws 10,000 to Peru airport

Cary Miller says he’ll return to council to ask for funds for next year’s event

Despite rains cancelling the second day of a two-day event, organizers of the TBM Avenger Reunion in Peru consider the event “a huge success.”

This year’s show was partially cancelled because of rain May 15. However, the nighttime air show and festivities the previous night proved to be a hit with visitors.

“It’s estimated that around 10,000 people cycled through that airport on Friday,” said TBM Avenger Reunion Chairman Cary Miller. “It was just incredible and it was an incredible testimony to the team, that they were able to rise to that occasion.”

Miller spoke Monday at the Peru City Council meeting to thank and debrief all who were involved in bringing the event back to Peru after a one-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Miller estimated the turnout Friday could have been due to many reasons, such as people wanting to get out of the house and that this was the first major event to take place in the area.

“Friday was something that we did not anticipate,” Miller said. “I think that by one or two in the afternoon we had consumed all of the parking on the grounds entrance and had gone to remote parking with shuttle buses. That was three or four hours before the event even started.”

Miller thanked the countless volunteers that worked extra hours beyond their assigned shifts and the many individuals that volunteered on the spot to help the coordinators with various aspects of the event.

The coordinators did not anticipate the extensive crowd on Friday and had scheduled most of their volunteers to work Saturday, which was scheduled to be the biggest portion of the reunion event.

For Miller, the TBM Avenger Reunion is a collective effort and couldn’t be put on without the support of many city departments. Miller thanked Police Chief Doug Bernabei and Fire Chief Jeff King for the extra work they and their departments put in to assist the effort.

“(Deputy Chief Bob Pyszka) did what all good pilots do, he assessed the situation and then he worked the problem,” Miller said. “He assigned people and kept the traffic and the parking going and the biggest concern at our event is traffic and parking.”

“No matter what we asked (King) to do he said ‘I’ll take care of it’ or ‘I’ll get it done,’ ” Miller said. “Sometimes we’d ask him and he’d tell us it’s already done. It’s unbelievable.”

Saturday’s rain cancelled some of the plans for the event, but not all. Organizers still were able to perform a flag ceremony where members of the community brought funeral flags of fallen loved ones to be flown in a missing man formation.

In the missing man formation, a pull airplane pulls out of formation and flies West to honor those veterans that are deceased. This was able to happen Saturday alongside the Peru Honor Guard and a full 21-gun salute.

Miller and his committee were impressed with the turnout they received.

“Obviously we didn’t get to fly everything that we wanted to fly, but all in all we consider it a huge success and we certainly want to do this again next year,” Miller said.

The event is largely-funded by the city of Peru as its contribution is vital to keep the event.

Miller previously spoke in front of the council about nine months ago and asked for the city to allocate funds to make it possible. The city was receptive of the request and supported the veteran-centered event.

While Miller wasn’t asking for funds to begin planning next year’s event at Monday’s meeting, he indicated his committee will return in the coming months to see if it can continue in 2022 with better weather.

“I’m certain that sometime in the not too distant future I’m going to be coming back to City Council and asking for funds for next year,” Miller said. “The quantity and quality of this airshow is in direct proportion to the money we have for it, it’s that simple.”