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Here's what we think makes this festival a unique Milwaukee staple.

Whether you attend the Milwaukee Air and Water Show or not, you’ll most likely hear it from miles away, so why not go and make a day of it? The Milwaukee Air and Water Show will return this year on July 21 and July 22 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Bradford Beach and the Milwaukee Lakefront. Besides the opportunity to spend a beautiful day on the shore of Lake Michigan, here are 8 other reasons why this years show is a must.

1. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds return

The USAF Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron will take flight on Saturday and Sunday starting at 3 p.m. The Thunderbirds will demonstrate both solo routines and formation flying to show the capabilities of the F-16 Fighting Falcon. That’s around 40 maneuvers per demonstration and more than 120 people dedicated to the team — you won’t want to miss out on this opportunity.

U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Manuel J. Martinez

2. Plenty of food and beverages

With various delicious food and beverage vendors lining Lincoln Memorial Drive for the weekend, there’s no reason why you cannot make a whole day at the show. Choose from Cousins Subs, Northpoint Custard, Miller Lite and more. Sip on a beer and snack on some goodies while enjoying the performances and demonstrations all day long.

3. Bring the kids

Although your little ones will probably love all the shows and demonstrations, there’s still plenty of other family friendly activities for the kiddies to enjoy. The “Kidz Fun Zone” will return to the festival once again, featuring all kinds of fun activities, especially the many bounce houses.

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4. Displays and exhibits put it all in context

For those who are curious what they are actually watching up in the sky, take some time to explore the exhibits and displays on the grounds. One special display is the U.S. Air Force X-1 Interactive Display, which features an experience trailer with games and videos, along with a Ford Mustang with Air Force technology. An A-7 Corsair cockpit display with real helmets, instruments and a fascinating history should also be a crowd-pleaser.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy Seals Parachute Team – The Leapfrogs

5. Parachuting

Not often do you look up at the sky and see more than clouds and maybe a plane or two. But for two days, you can experience unique parachuting and flying acts that will show you all the sky has to offer. The U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute and the U.S. Navy Seals Parachute Team – the Leapfrogs are both demonstration and competition parachute teams that will show you the great lengths to which these members are selected and trained.

6. On the Water

If you’re more of a boat person, that’s not a problem for this event. New for this year is Milwaukeean Dennis Pinter in the Air Chair as a ski boat tows him along. Also new is Milwaukee daredevil and pro flyboard competitor Casey “Swizzle” McElwee. Of course, old favorites will also return, such as the Milwaukee Fire Department “Trident Fireboat” and the U.S. Coast Guard HH-60 Jayhawk Rescue Helicopter Air-Sea Rescue Demonstration.

7. Phenomenal flying acts (of course!)

Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Air National Guard – KC-135 Stratotanker

As for the other performances and demonstrations, you’ll need to see for yourself what makes each one unique and different. Just a few acts that we’re excited to see include the U.S. Air Force “Strike Eagle,” the Wisconsin Air National Guard, Bill Stein’s solo aerobatics, Matt Chapman’s Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, the Wild Blue Rodeo and so much more. Each performance features various technicalities that make them stand out from other demonstrations, so it’s up to you to determine your favorite.

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8. FREE Admission

How often can you see the best in the U.S. for free? Seating (and parking) is first come, first serve, but if you want to ensure the best view the show has to offer, there are specialty seating tickets available. Three different packages include Center Point, Flight Line Club and the VIP Sky Chalet. If you’re interested in upgrading your seating, visit the ticket section of their website.

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