The SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo is a 46-year-old event that began with a group of pilots who got together to have a fly-in. The fly-in has grown over the years to include a trade show, career fair, educational workshop and an air show.

“Since the beginning, this event has been created and supported by volunteers,” said SUN ‘n FUN’s director of marketing and public relations, Carol Cali. “Even today, with a paid staff of 25 and 3,500 volunteers, we put on a six-day event for 225,000 guests. In 2012, we created the Aerospace Center for Excellence, and our event became our largest fundraiser. With a lot of work and diligence, the SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo raises over $2M for our programs. Of that, $500K is attributed to scholarships.”

The expo will be held from Thursday to Sunday, March 31 to April 5 at Aerospace Center for Excellence in Lakeland. Tickets for the event cost $39 for adults, $18 for youth ages 7-17 and children 6 years old or younger are free. Members of SUN ‘n FUN can purchase discounted tickets.

Cali and her team have worked hard to make this year’s expo a unique experience for all who attend.

“In addition to the daily high-adrenaline air shows, we have two night shows that are off the chain, performers with lights and fireworks performing to music,” Cali said. “Sixty world-renowned aerobatic performers, coupled with military might of the USAF Thunderbirds, the F-35A Lightning Demo Team and more will take to the skies while attendees walk among warbird legends, military displays and the like.”

This year, the expo will be celebrating the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII as well as a STOL (Short Take-Off and Landing) competition.

“For the kids, we’ve added a STEMtastic Youth area which will showcase fun, STEM educational activities for kids of all ages in addition to workshops,” Cali said. “We have over 500 exhibitors, including many plane manufacturers, a three-day career fair and more. Lots of food options and live entertainment too across 2,000 acres of fun, so wear walking shoes, and we will have trams available as well. We also have all sorts of upgrade opportunities too, including the 9/27 Club.”

Cali and her team hope the SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo will inspire all who attend.

“Our primary objective is to inspire the public to get excited about opportunities in aerospace, which includes traditional aviation careers,” Cali said. “If we accomplish that, the rest falls in place.”

Visit www.flysnf.org. The SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Center for Excellence is located at 4175 Medulla Rd. in Lakeland.