The Dayton Air Show: A Brief History

1986 Program Cover

Every summer thousands of aviation fans flock to the Dayton International Airport for the annual Dayton Air Show. In the early 1970s, local aviation enthusiasts sponsored a “General Aviation Day” at the Montgomery County Airport, now the Dayton-Wright Airport, to celebrate the rich history of flight in the Miami Valley.

Out of this event grew the air show originally named the “Dayton Air Fair.” The first Dayton Air Fair was held June 26-27, 1975, at the James M. Cox International Airport. Early performers included Miami Valley pilots Harold Johnson (The Flying Mayor of Moraine) and Bob Wagner. Both Johnson and Wagner, along with his wing-walking wife Pat, would continue to entertain air show attendees for many years.

Today the Dayton Air Show is one of the most prestigious shows in North America and attracts internationally known civilian and military acts. Performers have included the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, U.S. Army Golden Knights, U.S. Navy Blue Angels, the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, Patty Wagstaff, Betty Stewart, and Sean Tucker to just name a few.

Special Collections & Archives has a variety of material, from photographs to programs, documenting the air show since its inception in 1975. Most notably is the George “JR” Wedekind Aviation Collection, 1955-2003 (MS-436). Wedekind was one of the founders of the air show and served as the air show director and later executive director before retiring in 1994.

Dayton Daily News Photographers documented the planes, pilots, performers, and spectators that attended each year. Many of these images, covering the years 1975-1996, are available in the Dayton Daily News Archive (MS-458) and a sampling of the images can be seen here.

If you are interested in aviation be sure to check out our Aviation Subject Guide to see a complete list of the holdings here at SC&A. Below are a few of the Air Show program covers over the years.

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