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O.C. Air Show a High-Flying Crowd Pleaser

April 28, 1991|KEVIN JOHNSON and GEORGE FRANK | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

"These performed really well in Saudi Arabia," said Amposta, who returned from the Persian Gulf on March 22. "It's funny, we formed lines just to get off this thing."

Displays of aircraft technology and aerial acrobatics weren't the only attractions drawing people to El Toro. Merchants hawking everything from aviation artwork to colorful caps lined the viewing areas.

One of the hottest items going--a $10 framed portrait of allied commanding Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf--was selling so fast inside Gil Ortega's airfield gallery that a call for stock reinforcements went out by midmorning.

Gina Smith, the artist's daughter, said her mother "was back at home making more."

The graphite-pencil drawings position the general in front of the American flag.

"I haven't seen this many people in a long time," Ortega said.

Marine officials reported that the massive crowd was well-behaved and the bright sunshine claimed only "a few" spectators who complained of heat-related illnesses at first-aid stations.

"It has been real quiet and the people have been real cooperative," said Marine Capt. John Forquer. "We expect more people tomorrow than we had today."

That prediction, if true, could put even more strain on the freeways and streets surrounding and inside the base. By 7 a.m. Saturday, roadways in the area were already teeming with vehicles headed for the air show. On base, traffic came to a dead stop in the morning and vehicles formed three lanes of bumper-to-bumper lines into the parking areas.

By midafternoon, hundreds of vehicles were still entering the air station, while traffic was slowed outside by spectators who pulled off to the shoulders of local streets and freeway overpasses to view the show.

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