MANKATO — Most of the MN Air Spectacular show went on as scheduled, but as the USAF Thunderbirds were moving toward the runway the rain fell and their show was canceled.

Those who hung on to their Saturday tickets will be able to use them to go to the Sunday airshow at the Mankato Regional Airport. Organizers announced that Saturday attendees will be able to use their tickets for general admission tickets only on Sunday.

With forecasts of rain and potential thunderstorms Saturday, the crowd at the first day of the airshow was much smaller than organizers had hoped for. Still, those who attended got two hours of entertainment.

The forecast for Sunday's show is better, with clouds but little chance of rain predicted.

Randy Christensen was just walking into the airshow that had already begun when he stopped to watch "Shockwave," a jet engine semi that was blowing walls of fire, producing ear-piercing noise and roaring down the runway at 300 mph.

When the semi let loose two parachutes to bring it to a stop, Christensen raised his arms and whooped.

"Entertainment like that rocks me," said Christensen, who was at the show with his wife Marlene and two friends. They watched the 2015 airshow from afar and pledged to attend this year.

"I like sprint cars, anything that goes fast and loud," Randy said.

Chris Darnell, who was driving the 36,000-horsepower Shockwave semi, said it was their first time at the Mankato airshow. They have three semis that do more than 50 shows a year around the country.

"We're one of the top shows in the world."

He made two appearances Saturday, one racing down the runway and one where an airplane came past him at 150 mph and he caught up to it doing 300 mph.

Darnell said the vehicle handles pretty well but takes lots of steering. "You have to drive it a lot. It's big. Most things that go this fast aren't this big."

Tom and Marti Abts of Rochester were attending their first airshow in Mankato. Tom had been up in a glider before and visited Edwards Air Force Base as a kid and loves the high-performance jets and planes at the airshow. "I just think the technology is amazing."

Airshows are a fertile ground for various branches of the military to find potential recruits. The Air National Guard brought its interactive ANG Mobile Experience, allowing people to use virtual reality air flight training simulation chairs and oculus headsets to fly fighter jets from any airport in the United States.

Tech Sgt. Jeff Sprick said the simulators get a lot of attention and can draw the hundreds of STEM and cyber-minded recruits they are looking for.

But he said most of their recruiting comes from word of mouth by those already serving in the Air Guard. "We have over a 90% retention rate. People love what they're doing and they talk about it to their friends and family."

Michele Hostler, who travels around the country with the simulators, said they get potential recruits at many of the shows they attend. "Three to four weeks after we hear from people who show interest and we hook them up with their local offices."

The ANG has the dual mission of protecting U.S. interests at home and abroad and humanitarian efforts during natural disasters.

The Minnesota Air National Guard has two main bases, located in Duluth and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Follow Tim Krohn on Twitter @TimKrohn

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