The Quad City Air Show’s return flight is June 24-25

Quad City Air Show
Jeff Shatterly's Radial Rumble performs during the 31st annual Quad City Air Show in 2019. Shutdown by the pandemic in 2020, the long-awaited 32nd event takes off finally on June 24-25. CREDIT JOHN SCHULTZ / QUAD CITY AIR SHOW

Lori Hopper laughs now at the memory of asking other kids growing up in Davenport what they did all summer.

Instead of joining her friends for the usual trips to the neighborhood pool or park, Ms. Hopper remembers as young as age 6 answering phones and selling tickets in the Eldridge office of another of her father Ken’s babies: the Quad City Air Show.

Quad City Air Show Media Director Lori Hopper

“I remember once we took a break and went to Pocket Change Park and I felt like I worked really hard that day, so I asked my grandma to spot me a $20 — and so that’s what I got paid that day,” giggled Ms. Hopper, who turned 34 in mid-May and now serves as the event’s media director.

“I remember on the phone, people would complain about the loud sounds of the jets (flying). And I remember what my dad told me to say. So, people would hear this little voice answer back, ‘I’m sorry, sir, but that’s the sound of freedom.’”

Over three decades, the annual airplane extravaganza became such an integral part of their lives. Ms. Hopper said her parents and siblings felt as if they were missing a family member when the pandemic hit in 2020 and instantly grounded the 32nd QC Air Show until now.

The welcome home party has been delayed for three years but returns finally Saturday and Sunday, June 24-25, at the Davenport Municipal Airport.

But more than the Hopper family are celebrating the long-delayed return flight.

The Commanders Club VIP seating – available for $150 and promising unlimited Budweiser and Pepsi products as well as catering from Smokin’ Butt BBQ – was 90% sold out for Event Saturday and at 60% capacity on Event Sunday as of May 19, Ms. Hopper said.

Homegrown NFL player Jake Gervase is among the many hitting social media to recruit volunteers, she said.

And another local success story — Bettendorf High School grad and U.S. Air Force Captain Sam Larson — is returning home with his F-22 Raptor demonstration team to perform in the show that inspired him to become one of the youngest demo fighter pilots in U.S. history.

“He gets to pick two shows a year he wants to do because normally demo teams don’t go where other (military precision) teams are performing,” Ms. Hopper explained, adding that the legendary U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds are already headlining the showbill.

Quad City Air Show Founder Ken Hopper

Founded in 1987 by her father Ken Hopper, the event has grown and expanded over the years to include performances by world-famous aerial precision performance teams such as the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds (this year again) and U.S. Navy Blue Angels. The annual summertime event was selected the Large Air Show of the Year in 2011 by its peers in the industry.

Ms. Hopper said sponsors also have been flocking back to the local celebration of flight with some 45 companies listed as major contributors.

“I was born in ’89 and the event started in ’87, so some sponsors have been with us for longer than I’ve been alive,” Ms. Hopper said.

“Part of our deal with sponsors involves tickets, and a lot of them are already like, ‘We ran out; can we get more?’ So, people seem really excited we are back and that’s a great feeling to have.”

However, there has been a touch of turbulence after a three-year layoff, too.

“We did have some sponsors that moved on to different community events while we were away,” Ms. Hopper admitted. “And that’s OK. We’re glad that sponsorship money is still going back into our community. But that made us go a little bit deeper and wider for support this year.”

An example of another problem that has since emerged is the current shortage of vehicles available on any Quad Cities car dealership’s lot.

Quad City Air Show performer, F-18
An F-18 performs an aerial precision stunt during the 2010 Quad City Air Show. CREDIT JOHN SCHULTZ / QUAD CITY AIR SHOW

“We need over 80 cars with the Thunderbirds and their support crew needing half of that for the week,” Ms. Hopper said, noting that car rental giant Avis partnered with the International Council of Air Shows to help fix the national problem.

“Usually, we get one dealership to provide the cars – but this year, we’ve had multiple sponsors for that many cars – and we’ve reached out to every dealership multiple times because nobody can handle that volume right now.”

The local story is typical of the national scene, Ms. Hopper added.

Few air shows remained flying the past few years because the big attendance draws – the military teams such as the Thunderbirds — were prohibited to fly in civilian air shows around the country during 2020 and 2021.

“We always felt like we were going to come back, we just didn’t know how much time would pass,” Ms. Hopper said. “But there’s not a lot of things you can revive after three to four years that would come back the same if not stronger.”

Her father, an executive pilot of private jets, turned 66 in late May and shows no signs of slowing down as the QC Air Show’s chairman. He began the comeback in 2021 by applying to have the Thunderbirds perform, with the local event getting approval last fall after the usual 18-month approval process.

But the entire Hopper family plays a role now – from the matriarch, Margie (“the glue of the operation,” her daughter said); to Ms. Hopper’s siblings, older sister Michelle Payne (38, a CPA and finance guru for non-profits) and younger brother Evan (26, a data analyst with a student pilot license).

The siblings all attended school at St. Paul’s and Assumption High School, and still reside in the area, though Ms. Hopper’s siblings both plan to move to Colorado after this year’s comeback event.

“As we’ve gotten older, we have kind of slipped into positions to keep it going into the next generation,” Ms. Hopper said.

However, she is quick to credit more than her family for keeping the QC Air Show flying.

“The performers, the volunteers and the sponsors,” Ms. Hopper said of the most-necessary ingredients.

Quad City Air Show Performers
The AeroShell Aviation Team flies over the area during the 2005 Quad City Air Show. CREDIT JOHN SCHULTZ / QUAD CITY AIR SHOW

“We always say that the sponsors keep the show in the air. Volunteers keep the show on the ground. And the performers keep the show alive by attracting a community of spectators. If we don’t have people to watch it, there’s not a reason to do it. If we don’t have volunteers, we can’t take care of those spectators like we should. And if we don’t have sponsors, none of this happens.”

But the show also relies on the community to keep it going. “There’s a huge amount of people that have to touch and see and approve (of the QC Air Show) just have this event in the Quad Cities,” Ms. Hopper said. “There are so many that we have to get involved, for instance, because the Thunderbirds are based out of (the QC International Airport) in Moline during the week, so we have people helping us across the states during the show. We have to shut down local airspace during the show.

“All the farmers and all of the companies around the air show have to have an understanding that they can’t really operate at their full capacity during the show,” she said. “So thank you to everybody for keeping our seat at the table and welcoming us back with open arms.”

For more about this year’s Quad City Air Show, visit

IF YOU GO: 32nd Quad City Air Show

When/where: Saturday and Sunday, June 24-25, at the Davenport Municipal Airport, 9230 N. Harrison, Davenport. Gates are open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. both days, with the acrobatic flying beginning around noon.

Show in the air: The “Festival in the Sky” features aerial precision performances by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, the F-22 Raptor Demo Team, and the Canadian Sky Hawks Parachute Team. There also are dozens of other performers including static flyovers by World War II aircraft starting at 8:30 a.m. These classic planes are all part of “The Dawn Patrol” and are displayed along with current military and general aircraft during the show to allow spectators to talk to the pilots and air crew.

Show on the ground: More than 200 booths will be set up including: the USAF Performance Lab and Navy Week and displays for the Army Special Ops, USAF Major Ground, F-22 Raptor Mini, and Mobile Aviation History. Activities include helicopter rides, an Army Challenge Course, a flight simulator, a classic car show, Kidspace Games and a wide variety of military vehicles (Marine Hummer, Air Force Suburban) on display. A Saturday Night Concert also is planned (details to be announced).

Seating/food: Bring your own lawn chair. Rentals are available, along with a variety of vendors selling food and beverages. Or consider Commanders Club seating for all-inclusive food and drink. No outside food, beverages or coolers are allowed except for baby or medical supplies.

Directions: Take Interstate 80 to Exit 295 (U.S. 61 North) and make the short drive to U.S. 61 North exits 124 or 125 and follow the signs. Exit 125 (Blackhawk Trail) is for general parking. Exit 124 (Airport Road) is parking for VIP and Chalet seating as well as staff, performers, volunteers and vendors. For handicapped seating, display your handicapped tag to be directed to the proper lot. On-site parking passes are $8 in advance or $10 at the gate. Limited and private Premier Parking (next to Corporate Chalet seating) is available for $40 in advance or $50 at the gate. NOTE: Corporate Chalet, Box seating and Commanders Club parking already included.

Tickets: Available in advance at (through June 23) or at the gate. One day general admission: Adults (ages 11 and up) $30 in advance, $40 at the gate; Youth (ages 5-10) $10 in advance or $15 at the gate. Kids age 4 and under are free with a paid adult. Discounts for blocks of tickets: 10 or more (reduced to $25 per ticket), 25 or more ($21 each), 50 or more ($16 each) and 100 or more ($14 each).

Flight crew

The 2023 Quad City Air Show’s major sponsors in alphabetical order: 
Authority Concessions
Bally’s Quad Cities
Bennett Trucking
Bernatello’s Foods
Big 10 Mart
Big Ten Rentals
Brandt Construction
CAT Rental
City of Davenport
Craftsmen Utility Trailer
CS Technologies
Davenport Municipal Airport
Elliott Aviation
ESPN Quad Cities
I-Rock 93.5
In Tolerance
Isle Casino & Hotel
J&J Ventures
K&K Hardware
Liberty Packaging
Mel Foster Co.
MH Equipment
Molo Petroleum
One Step
Quad Cities International Airport
Republic Services
Revv Aviation
Rhythm City Casino Resort
Smokin’ Butt BBQ
Temple’s Sporting Goods
The Outhouse
Titan Aviation Fuels
Titan Machinery
US 104.9
7G Distributing

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