PUNTA GORDA - Mateo Alvarez, 4, saw some of his heroes in action Saturday.

Mateo wants to be a pilot. And as he posed in front of display of fighter jets and helicopters with his brother, 6-year-old Marc Alvarez, dozens of planes zipped and darted across the sky. Mateo would then signal a thumbs up from the co-pilot’s seat in a US Army Black Hawk helicopter.

This weekend is the Florida International Air Show, where 12 performers took to the skies to show off their skills.

More than 35,000 visitors came to the show Saturday, according to estimates from the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, making it the most attended show in the air show’s 39 years.

“There’s a lot of happy people here,” said Dana Carr, president of the FIAS board of directors. A lot of that attendance he attributes to the weekend performances from the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, which last performed in Punta Gorda in 2014.

“It’s about as perfect as it can get,” Carr said.

Before the Thunderbirds performed, Punta Gorda’s Cindy Chandler brought her kids to support a friend getting sworn into the Air Force.

“It’s good for the kids,” said Cape Coral’s Ismaray Morales, who brought her 5-year-old son Gian Morales to see all the planes. His favorite, though, was “the blue one,” he said, pointing to a large airplane.

Meanwhile his friend, Marcel Morejon, 2, had never seen something go so fast. His brother, Mason Morejon, was proud to see fighter jets that “protect our country.”

Part of what made it a smooth-sailing event, though, was preparation from attendees.

Steve Lineberry, marketing and media director for the air show, strongly encourages those wanting a seamless experience today to purchase tickets ahead of time online and to arrive early—gates open at 9 a.m., performances begin at noon.

For more information on the Florida International Air Show, visit www.FloridaAirShow.com.

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