The Reno Air Races Need Half A Million Dollars In Donations To Continue.

The historic Reno National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada are asking for $500,000 in donations by year’s end to save the event which has run every year since 1964. Without the funding the Races will not take place in 2021 and perhaps, never again.

Those who’d like to help can donate online or via mail.

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As we reported in July, the Reno Air Racing Association (RARA) was forced to cancel the 2020 races as the result of restrictions on public events/gatherings in Nevada thanks to Covid-19. The event, which relies on attendance for approximately 50% of its revenue, not only lost potential ticket sales but had to refund over $150,000 in sponsorship, vendor and exhibitor fees as well as tickets according to RARA COO, Tony Logoteta.

The non-profit association reduced staff considerably before the cancellation and has since been paired to bare-bones operation. RARA had asked for donations with its announcement of the 2020 cancellation but the Association’s board decided in September to go public with its financial condition and call for donations to save the races.

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“When we announced our cancelation we didn’t go into depth on what our needs would really be, partially because we didn’t know exactly what they would be,” Logoteta explains. “Once we knew what refunds we had to make – all that money goes into sustaining operations – we decided to begin work on this [fundraising] campaign. Not telling people how tough a spot we’re in isn’t going to work.”

Logoteta acknowledges that the fundraising may send a negative message to potential sponsors but RARA reached out to all of its existing partners in advance to let them know the campaign was forthcoming.

The donation funding will go not only to securing the logistics of the 2021 race but to hiring enough staff to stage the event. Much of the race preparation and operations work is carried out by a large pool of volunteers but the Association faces other costs including an increase in event insurance premiums of $160,000.

Annually, the Air Races generate over $100 million in economic impact for northern Nevada. While the area is traditionally known for gaming and mining, it has massively diversified in the last 25 years and is home to large tech players like Tesla TSLA , Panasonic and Amazon AMZN as well as a collection of drone developers like Flirtey.

So far, RARA has not successfully attracted their support though potential technology connections, including future electrically-powered racing aircraft, seem obvious.

If the $500,000 in donations is raised, RARA plans to proceed with the 2021 air races as previously announced with the same dates/schedule and the participation of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration team as well as full slate of racing action.

Air racing is the world’s fastest motorsport. The Reno Air Races continued the tradition of closed-course pylon air racing (airplanes race around an oval course defined by pylons just 50 feet above the ground at speeds up to 500-plus mph) popularized by the Cleveland National Air Races. Started in 1929 and run through 1949 with a break during WWII, the Cleveland races rivaled the Indianapolis 500 as a national motorsports event and became a crucible for inter-war aviation technology development.

Air racing at Reno has contributed advances in propeller and materials design among others and remains the only place on the planet where airplanes race head-to-head at high subsonic speeds. The Races are an American institution, recognized worldwide and attended by generations of spectators.

Logoteta says that RARA will make a decision about continuing based on the success of its fundraising in the first quarter of 2021. The organization has already received about $120,000 in donations.

“I don’t think many people foresaw how long the [restrictions] from the pandemic were going to last and what impact they’d have,” Logoteta says. For us to wait to make a decision until June of this year – there’s too much that has to be done leading up to that point.”

For the sake of tradition, entertainment and aviation, the Reno Air Races are an event worthy of supporting. With support, they’ll return again next September for the 56th time.

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