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Thousands flock to the sugar-white sand and turquoise water of this Gulf Coast destination each July to see the U.S. Navy’s elite flight demonstration squadron perform at their annual Pensacola Beach Air Show.

The Blue Angels — or “Blues,” as locals call their hometown heroes — are known across the country for their high-flying aerial maneuvers and laser-point precision. Started in 1946, the team celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2016 — a long legacy in a city whose reputation as a tourist destination is rivaled only by its military heritage.

Blue Angels flying in formation over Pensacola Beach in the late 1960s. (Blue Angels Association/Special to The Pulse)

Indeed, Pensacola is known as the “Cradle of Naval Aviation.” Naval Air Station Pensacola — located just west of the city’s colonial-era downtown — has trained generations of airmen and is the home base for the Blue Angels. In a city with such deep military roots, few things arouse more pride than the sight of the Blues soaring high above the Gulf of Mexico.

That pride will be on full display in days leading up to this year’s air show, to be held July 8 on Santa Rosa Island.

Tuesday, July 4 — Bands on the Beach and Independence Day Fireworks

Sing and sway to the tunes of Johnny Earthquake and the Moondogs at Bands on the Beach as the sun melts into the horizon along Pensacola Beach. Follow that up with a spectacular patriotic fireworks display over the Santa Rosa Sound. Bands on the Beach begins at 7 p.m. on the Gulfside Pavilion stage. The Pensacola Beach 4th of July fireworks begin at 8:30 p.m. over the Santa Rosa Sound.

Wednesday, July 5 — Breakfast with the Blues

Visitors will have multiple opportunities to catch a glimpse of the famous flight team leading up to the show. The first of these will be on July 5, when thousands will flock to the beach to enjoy breakfast while waiting for the Blues to pass overhead at 8 a.m.

Thursday and Friday, July 6-7 — Blue Angels Practice Shows

Visitors will get another chance to witness the Blues’ exhilarating, high-speed stunts during two practice runs scheduled for 2 p.m. on July 6 and 7. Dress rehearsal for the airshow’s civilian acts will start at noon on Friday, July 7.

Saturday, July 8 — Pensacola Beach Air Show

The official 2017 Pensacola Beach Air Show will begin around noon.

The 2017 air show line-up includes the Veterans Flight crew flying their WWII era Stearmans; Julian MacQueen flying his Grunman Widgeon G-44 amphibious plane; the U.S. Navy Seal LEAP Frogs; the Redline Sports Team flying RV-8 speed demons; Gary Ward flying the MX2, an unlimited aerobatic aircraft that spins and rotates at high speeds; Kevin Coleman flying a one-of-a-kind Extra 300SHP; and Skip Stewart flying Prometheus, a biplane that roars and races.

Fat Albert, a C-130 Hercules that flies support for the Blue Angels, will kick off the official Blue Angels performance at 2 p.m.

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