Millions Enjoy Air & Water Show Thrills

By Marco Stendardo, Robert Rodriguez and Christian Farr
|  Monday, Aug 22, 2011  |  Updated 8:49 AM CDT
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NBC Chicago's Zoraida Sambolin jumps out of a perfectly good airplane with Staff Sgt. Matt Acord, of the Army's Golden Knights parachute team, at the 2011 Chicago Air & Water Show.

NBC Chicago's Zoraida Sambolin jumps out of a perfectly good airplane with Staff Sgt. Matt Acord, of the Army's Golden Knights parachute team, at the 2011 Chicago Air & Water Show.

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Hometown Hero Flies with Thunderbirds

Chicago firefighter and paramedic Jason Durbin was named hometown hero and got the chance to fly with the Thunderbirds. He spoke to Zoraida Sambolin on Friday's NBC 5 News Today.
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Millions of people converged on Chicago's lakefront this weekend for the 53rd Annual Chicago Air and Water Show. 

Sunday's show went off without a hitch, with performances by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, and the U.S. Navy Leap Frogs Parachute Team.  NBC Chicago's Zoraida Sambolin took a leap of faith herself, and jumped out of an airplane at 13,500 feet with the U.S. Army Golden Knights.

Saturday's show, however, had to be condensed after severe weather ripped across the area, delaying the event for a couple of hours.

 

The show started on time, at 10 a.m., but heavy rain, lightning and thunder grounded the show's planes and sent onlookers scurrying.

Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events spokeswoman Mary May said the event was halted because safety is a "very big deal."

The show was delayed long enough for the eastward-moving storm to pass Gary, Ind., where the planes were based. The fast-moving storms packed wind gusts and heavy rains.

In Skokie, authorities evacuated several homes after a downed power line sparked a fire fed by an underground gas line. Nicor and ComEd crews were on the scene in the late afternoon hours making repairs.

And in north suburban Glencoe, crews were busy cleaning up after the storms downed several large branches that were blocking roadways.

But when all was said and done, the Air & Water show went on, and most seemed pleased.

"They put on a great show," said spectator Richard Szorc. "Chicago puts on a great show... when they put everything together -- the music -- and then when [the planes] come by, sneaking up behind you and scaring you."

An estimated 2.2 million people were expected to witness the show's aerobatic thrills.

One Chicago firefighter already has been honored as a "Hometown Hero" by the Thunderbirds. Jason Durbin got to fly with the Air Force on Thursday in an F-16.

In December 2009, Durbin performed a rescue in a high-rise fire in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.

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