RENO, Nev. - White balloons were released into the air Sunday during a tribute ceremony for the victims of last year's tragic plane crash at the Reno National Championship Air Races.
Each of the eleven victims' names were read as a the balloons were released into the air.
"We wanted to have an event that appropriately remembered last year," Mike Draper, spokesman for the Reno Air Races said.
This year's air races concluded Sunday with no major disasters. However, despite new safety regulations to protect spectators, the four day event saw a small dip in attendance.
"You know attendance started out a little slow, but as the week's progressed its gotten better," Draper said.
Draper says the hesitation to announce whether or not the races would go on may also play a factor in the attendance drop.
"It wasn't until mid-August that we were able to say this event is happening with absolute certainty," he said. "And I think people held off on making reservations until they knew this was absolutely happening."
Draper also noted there was a small drop in the number of pilots competing, but he says that has more to do with preparedness than fear.
"Pilots aren't going to fly if their planes aren't ready," Draper said. "The couple pilots who didn't return wanted to make it clear they weren't returning because they didn't think they could compete in the way they wanted to compete."
Another change as a result of last year's tragedy is higher ticket prices.
"We saw our insurance go up from $300,000 to $2,000,000," Draper said. "The cost was partially passed on to spectators."
Though attendance may be down, some vendors say this has been one of their best years. Bob Neilson, Vice President of Anderson Aeromotive, said people had been stopping by their booth constantly during the event to check out their motors.
"Business has been really good," Neilson said. "Most of the people who go through the gate stop by us."
Neilson and Draper agree, those who stayed away from the event this year will most likely return for the 50th anniversary celebration next year.
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