With a much-anticipated return, this year’s Hyundai Air & Sea Show took Miami Beach by storm, ringing in Memorial Day over the long weekend. Live performances, military demonstrations, a free to attend Display Village and more drew visitors from around the country in a genuine celebration of America’s military servicemen and women. The event saw active military personnel, veterans, prospective members and locals coming together to take Memorial Day beyond barbeques and block parties. Citing Miami Beach’ s mayor, commissioners, city officials and law enforcement, nearly 1.2 million people visited the Hyundai Air & Sea Show over the Memorial Day weekend.
Mickey Markoff, the Executive Producer of the Hyundai Air & Sea Show explained the intention behind the event as bringing back the authentic spirit of Memorial Day. Considering other big-name national celebrations that take place around the country Markoff found himself asking why military sacrifice isn’t honored all year round- and, what exactly defined Memorial Day to the troves of Americans who celebrate it as a day off from work. Ultimately, he decided to create a signature event to pay tribute to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of our freedom. Planning the “multi-dimensional jigsaw puzzle,” as Markoff calls it, is a hefty task each consecutive year, but constructing a lasting Memorial Day legacy remains absolutely worthwhile to him and his team that makes it all possible.
“On behalf of everyone at Hyundai, I am deeply honored to stand here by you commemorating the sacrifices of the men and women who have served this nation,” said José Muñoz, CEO Hyundai Motor America.
The Hyundai Air & Sea Show always sees regulars, but for some, this year’s ceremonies at Miami Beach were their first time attending. Commander of U.S. Air Force Recruiting Command, Major General Edward Thomas, who has 32 years of active military duty under his belt, was pleased to see the degree of interaction between the military and the public. “Anytime we can come out and be face to face, have our airmen, our soldiers out on the beach with these folks so they can see firsthand what their American taxpayers provide for our national defense, is a win,” said Thomas. The Display Village, where various organizations were able to host performances and set up displays, was especially helpful in facilitating communication between visitors and military branches, especially in the face of “The toughest recruiting year in almost a quarter of a century,” according to Thomas.
“Events like this are absolutely tremendous; to be able to get out and talk to people and make the military real… We are real people with hopes, dreams, aspirations, desires and families, and we want you to know who we are,” Thomas continued. As another attendee, U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command’s Director of Strategic Plans, Programs, and Requirements, Major General Jason Armagost put it, “Having that transparency, for people to see and understand what we do. To have young kids get inspired by watching something like this show is pretty big for us.”
For Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient Master Sergeant Earl Plumlee, the most exciting part of the weekend was meeting the newest members of the army as they got sworn in. “It’s exciting for me to see them starting their adventure,” said Plumlee, who has been with the Special Forces for a total of 24 years. The show brought people from all walks of life together behind a single cause, breaking boundaries with each new introduction.
The festivities began at 11am sharp on Saturday, lining the waterfront between 11th and 14th streets in Miami Beach. Taking place over the course of both Saturday and Sunday, live demonstrations drew attention to the seashore, where ThunderCats and Cigarette Offshore Powerboat drivers showed off their skills in a series of competitive race demonstrations. As many as ten of the legendary championship Cigarette boats took the spotlight, giving the audience a firsthand glance into the niche sport of powerboat racing the company produces.
A flyboard exposition and freestyle jet-ski event rounded out the action on the waves before the military demos took to the air. Parachute teams like the U.S. Navy Leap Frogs joined U.S. Air Force para-rescue professionals to showcase their skills, while some of the Air Force’s state-of-the-art aircraft performed fly-bys above the crowd. One of the entire event’s major goals was to introduce young people to the various factions, positions and responsibilities within the U.S. military, and one pilot in particular stood out for her crucial role. Captain Aimee “Rebel” Fiedler, pilot and commander of the U.S. Air Force Viper Demonstration Team, performed perfectively timed maneuvers. Her skills stood as a pillar representing the increasingly visible and undeniable female presence within the military.
In between the two portions of the show, guests mingled among the activations at Lummus Park’s Display Village, participating in interactive exhibits, viewing the military equipment including an Army M1A2 tank, and enjoying rotating performances from the USAF’s Max Impact Band and Honor Guard Drill Team. Taking place, the same day, the Monster Energy FMX Motocross Exhibition kicked things up a notch with unbelievable stunts from top motocross athletes.
On Saturday, just as the day was beginning to wind down around 5pm, the event’s Music Explosion signaled that the night was far from over. Lasting until 10pm, the evening welcomed renowned rock band 3 Doors Down, along with musicians representing the U.S. Army and Air Force. As the headliner brought the show to a close, a dazzling fireworks display rose over Miami Beach. Acting as a gesture as much as an unforgettable event for the whole family, this year’s National Salute was a huge success, paying tribute in high spirits against the idyllic backdrop of the Miami Beach coast.
If you’re planning to attend next year’s Hyundai Air & Sea Show, be sure to keep an eye on special offers and opportunities for lucky fans; this year, a winning applicant was chosen to accompany former fighter pilot Matthew ‘Whiz’ Buckley on a special flight in an L-39C Albatros Fighter Jet, with the entire experience documented via Go-Pro cameras. While the air and sea show can be enjoyed for free as long as you find a good vantage point on the beach, general admission tickets and upgrades like LiquorSplit Beach Club and Herradura Cabana Club bookings promise more access to all parts of the event, as well as prime views and drink service.