It's an incredible experience to get to watch the Blue Angels and their support plane, Fat Albert, fly the skies - but it's all thanks to the people on the ground, working behind the scenes to ensure everything goes smoothly at the La Crosse Airfest this year.
Marty Schmal is one of those people spending his afternoon on the ground at the La Crosse Airport. He and his dad have been volunteering at Airfest for years - "it runs in the family," he says - they've been preparing for more than five months, and this week they're putting in 14-hour days to ensure everything is prepared.
"We're pulling fence, getting vendors in, keeping things cold, keeping people in getting people out," Marty lists the responsibilities for the day.
He joins more than 200 other volunteers who make the day possible and give the Blue Angels and other performers a place to play - and the crew knows it.
"It's been amazing," said Kevin Sanchez, flight engineer for Fat Albert. "We have some great support from the local area here."
The Blue Angels team is out all week, practicing their runs and giving a couple lucky souls the chance to soar the skies. So far, the crew is enjoying their bird's eye view.
"I absolutely love the area here, great country, and beautiful flying," Sanchez said.
Back on the ground, Marty's got a front-row seat to the action, but he and his fellow volunteers are too busy making it all happen this weekend at Airfest.
"It takes a lot of people, and without the people who have taken their time to stop and be able to do this, it wouldn't be possible," Marty says.
While the volunteers work this week, they do get an up- close view of the Blue Angels, something that doesn't happen very often. The planes were last in La Crosse back in 2007, but this crew is visiting for the first time.
Airfest runs from May 31 to June 1 at the La Crosse Regional Airport. Grounds open at 9 a.m. and flying begins at noon.
Find more information at airfest.com.