Sun 'N Fun Aerospace Expo expected to make full recovery in Lakeland

The Sun ‘N Fun Aerospace Expo is expected to be making a full recovery this year, and it all starts Tuesday. 

In 2020, it was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, it was held with restrictions. The 2022 version is expected to be completely back on track.

Advance ticket sales are up 20%. John "Lites" Leenhouts, former CEO of the Expo, credited the state of Florida's lack of restrictions for this year's increase in sales.

"The state of Florida is open for business like everyone else on a normal day," Leenhouts said.

The business of Sun 'N Fun is to raise money to develop the next generation of aviation talent. Organizers say the Expo invests in projects to whet the appetite of young people for STEM, so they can become pilots, airline mechanics or work in other jobs in the aviation industry.

Sun ‘N Fun is its biggest fundraiser of the year. Officials say 80% of its budget comes from the event, so when the 2020 expo was canceled, it cost Sun ’N Fun $6 million.

"We started selling all of our assets that we could," said Leenhouts. "We were asking for support from the city. They came back and waived our lease for a year. We got PPE loans."

So if advance ticket sales are any indication of success, Leenhouts is hoping that the 2022 expo will help the flying get back on track financially.

The Expo starts Tuesday, April 5 and goes until Sunday, April 10.

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