BRUNSWICK — There was a post-air show joke after the Maine National Guard hosted 75,000 aviation enthusiasts in Bangor: That was a blast but let’s not do it again anytime soon.

Large air shows require a ton of work: Six months of detailed planning with complicated logistics, VIPs, vendors, hundreds of volunteers and all manner of aircraft.

Civilian operators of the former Brunswick Naval Air Station must be gluttons for punishment as they’re in the midst of a three-year run with the Great State of Maine Air Show, which kicks off this weekend with the Air Force Thunderbirds and other top flying acts from across the U.S.

“It’s steeped in tradition,” said Suzanne Krauss, a former Navy pilot who now serves as airport operations coordinator at Brunswick Executive Airport. “It’s part of the history of Brunswick. People look forward to it happening and ask for us to do it. We’d like to continue that tradition.”

Last year marked the first air show held in Brunswick since the Navy base closed. The air show returns with events Friday through Sunday, and next year they’ll do it again.

As an encore to the 2011 event, organizers have lined up a tribute to the Tuskegee airmen featured in the Hollywood hit movie “Red Tails,” an airborne comedy routine dubbed “Greg Koontz and the Alabama Boys” and performances by the world’s only all-women skydiving team, “Misty Blues.”

Also flying are top aerobatic pilots and the Air Force Thunderbirds, making their first appearance in Maine since the 1990s, with a noisy demonstration of precision flying.

“We’re looking forward to it because we’ve never done our mission in Maine, not this crew at least,” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jake Richmond, spokesman for the team.

The Brunswick air show tradition dates to 1962, when the first one coincided with a visit by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, who was vacationing on a Maine island.

Over the years, the Brunswick event grew in popularity, with the base becoming the state’s largest city with 100,000 spectators watching from the tarmac on a sunny day.

The closing of Brunswick Naval Air Station, once home to 4,000 sailors and six patrol squadrons, made putting on an air show a greater challenge.

Without the Navy, the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority took on much more work, lining up 600 to 700 volunteers, jet fuel and a temporary control tower. And because it’s now bearing the $700,000 to $800,000 cost, the redevelopment authority must now charge admission for the event, which used to be free.

Last year, between 15,000 and 20,000 people attended the truncated air show, which was limited to a one-day event as Hurricane Irene stormed up the East Coast.

Steve Levesque, director of the redevelopment authority, said the goal is keep alive the tradition, honor military personnel, and to showcase the facility for private companies.

All told, there are 17 business leases with a promise of 450 jobs at the former Navy base. And redevelopment efforts are continuing, Levesque said.

As for the air show, retired Maine National Guard Lt. Col. Mike Lantz knows how much work goes into such an event. In 2000, he was responsible for logistics for the Bangor show, which featured the Navy Blue Angels, flying legend Chuck Yeager, stealth aircraft and aerial showmen like Sean Tucker.

It was a joy to see kids’ faces as they watched the performances, touched the airplanes and talked to the pilots, fostering an interest in aviation, Lantz said.

But it was exhausting for Lantz, who was responsible for logistics, and for Steve Alex, who lined up the acts.

“It was a lot of fun but it was a lot of work. When it was over, we shook each other’s hand. And neither of us said, ‘Let’s do it again next year,'” he joked.

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