Monday, October 13, 2014
Just another day at the airport....
Saturday, after buying three giant thermal containers of coffee and all the support supplies for them at WAWA, the Princess & I left Stafford at 5:15 and cruised 32 miles to Culpeper Regional Airport….in the rain. This would be the 5th time we have supported the Airport’s annual AirFest event. Our group, Cruisin For Heroes (CFH), invites a mix of interesting special vehicles to display on a lot next to the only entrance to the day’s festivities. We try to screen the invitees to our display so we end up with people friendly people as well as their interesting vehicles. The display is meant to compliment the AirFest event but not distract from it, so we have to be careful what/who we invite. We began planning for this year’s event while we were executing last year’s event….always improve….Kiazen.
This year the Airport staff was expecting in excess of 12,000 spectators! They would bus them to the event then back to their vehicles from nearby High Schools. The Airport staff was working tirelessly behind the scenes, solving the onslaught of problems the day would bring. The local law enforcement community sets up a command trailer on the ramp, coordinates the traffic and provides any emergency equipment during the day. It is a major event. And did I mention it was an air show? Yup….there would be many airplanes that would fly and WOW the spectators….not the least of which is Nalls Aviation’s Harrier. It is the only civilian owned Harrier in existence….it is an amazing machine. And this year there were to be 75 Warbirds! These Civilian owned old Military airplanes from trainers, observation, fighters, bombers, transports and liaison planes are such an important part of the historical fabric of America. A lot of noisy, really cool airplanes that when not flying are parked on the ramp and are ‘touchable’ to all the spectators! A little after Noon the low ceiling began to lift and some of the airplanes began to fly. It would be an abbreviated air show program but most of the show did go on, to include the Harrier! It is truly an experience not to be missed, and it’s free.
This year the vendor presence seemed to increase drastically to include many different kinds of foods like funnel cakes, hot dogs, hamburgers, barbeque, kettle corn, ice cream and much more! Other vendors selling interesting local wares filled the ramp area; it looked like a tent city! A few hangars were open to the public to include the Commemorative Air Force hangar. This group supports the restoration as well as flying of the old warbirds. They always have a few examples of their member’s machines lurking in their hangar. They also have an open house every month for the public to see what they do to preserve the old air machines.
Last year it rained all day….I rolled that thought around my mind as the distance between us and the airport got shorter and shorter while I peered out the tiny cleaned spot on the windshield. The top of our truck is chopped 4” and we have modified little 7” wiper blades to use when it rains. They clean a spot about as big as a salad plate; it’s like mowing your grass while wearing a snorkel mask to see where you are going. Peripheral vision is overrated. When we arrived at the airport the youngest member of CFH, Andrew, was already parked next to the display lot and three of the sponsors vehicles were set in the display lot! Lou had worked with the sponsor on Friday to help deliver their cars to the Airport. As we drove past Andrew, I turned to go onto the grassed lot that we would be walking on for the next 10 hours to see if it was too soft. When I got off the asphalt the truck bounced a little and started to make grinding noises! I thought for a moment that we had dropped off into a quagmire of mud and grass. So I immediately stopped, then selected reverse in the old TH350 transmission and began easing back out. The grinding noises accompanied us till we got on the asphalt again, whew. I jumped out (not really “jumped”, kind of a slinky fall out of the cab onto my wobbling legs and numb feet) to survey the damage, in the rain, in the dark. Andrew was walking over to see what was going on while I was fumbling with my new cosmic tactical flashlight, that wasn’t working. When I found my backup flashlight I saw what the ruckus was all about. A cinder block was left on the grass! We were next to the main gate to the airport ramp and it has two 10’ gates. When the gates are opened they will swing shut with a little wind. So, this is the cinder block that they put in front of the gate after it’s opened so it won’t swing closed. Since it was early, the gates were still locked and closed and the cinder block was lying on the ground. So while cautiously looking out the salad plate sized clean spot on my windshield, in the rain, 1 1/2 hour before sunrise…..it had escaped my attention. The Princess was freaking out. I think she thought we had run over something that was capable of tearing off the underside of the truck and we would see the oil running on the ground any second. She got out and looked at the bumper and fender and pronounced that it looked serviceable. I didn’t see any vital fluids leaking out or any parts lying on the ground so we might be OK. I gingerly backed up to the end of the holding lot and parked with the headlights left on to illuminate some of the display lot while we maneuvered vehicles into position, in the dark, in the rain….whew. Later inspection of the cinder block attack would reveal no damage, not even a scratch? I guess those old bumpers were built a little different than the ones today. While Andrew and I were discussing how we would deal with the day, Lou & Arlene drove up and parked. Lou is the important part of this whole deal….he brings the 4 dozen doughnuts! Shortly after Lou parked, Arlene joined the Princess in our truck so they could plot their part of the day’s activities. Princesses don’t do anything by accident….they plan everything….we just think they are a little air headed and spontaneous….no way….hehehehe Next Fred joined the group without Debie….she would join us later….arriving in a school bus….you have to ask her why? Now there were six crazy people….in the cold rain….in the dark….looking at each other wondering why we have such crazy friends! Normal people would still be home asleep or if they are up at this bizarre hour they would be sipping a warm latte in a cozy room while watching the cold rain fall outside. And normal people would be wondering why anyone would go out in this kind of weather. Normal?….that’s just a place in Illinois!
About 6:30 we decided to take up our positions so Andrew left to man his critical spot. Andrew would be the first CFH person anyone would see as they drive in on the access road. Since many of the participants we invited this year were first timers they would need to be directed from the access road to our parking staff near the lot. CFH was also a little short handed this weekend so initially Lou, Fred and I would be directing the placement of all the vehicles on the display lot. Dan would be leading a group from Stafford that would leave there at 6:30….in the rain….in the dark. When he arrived he would become the fourth person to help place vehicles on the display lot.
As mentioned above the spectators were to be bused from two local HS and disembarked on the part of the display lot near the sidewalk. Because of that the total size of our display lot had been reduced by about 1/3! We had reduced the amount of people we invited by about 15 so the vehicles would not be too cramped. With as many spectators that were expected we wanted ample room between the vehicles to prevent any damage to them. Shortly after 6:30 the first of the days display vehicles began arriving. Everything else that happened would be pure crisis management from this point till about 11AM.
Cory, his son and his Dad brought in their two beautiful Fairlanes and a Patriotically wrapped trailer hauling the red Fairlane. We parked their trailer and the Fords then Fred & Lou parked the rest of the vehicles as they came in. Since our sponsor was a Ford dealership we invited more people that had Fords. And since there was to be a Mopar show the same day we avoided inviting any Mopars except for Bill’s Valiant. By 8AM most of the vehicles had arrived and were in the process of settling in for the day. Fred, Bill & Bill began setting up the hospitality canopies that would house the coffee & doughnuts. They also set up the CFH/Fisher House Foundation canopy near the entrance. Fisher House Foundation has been our major charity for three years now as we try to raise awareness and dollars for this fine charity that assists our returning Veterans as they mend from their war injuries. Like the McDonald house, Fisher House houses the families of the Veterans that are in the hospital. There is never a cost to the Veteran or their family and the Fisher Houses are placed all over the Country near VA hospitals. You need to consider them when you do your charitable giving for the year.
Bill brought his 1923 Model T Speedster to the party; I think it was the most popular ride all day even though Wyatt’s DeLorean always had a crowd around it too. These two cars always attract attention wherever they are, they are so unique and the owners really like to interact with spectators.
I think it was around 9AM that the little PT Cruiser came in with the two more clowns! Yup….clowns. One of the vehicle invitees was Bill, his main squeeze is Jo-Ann….a sure enough, real clown! A few months ago she had asked me if we would like to have some clowns at the event? I never thought about that! The event is very family centric….and everyone likes clowns….why not have them join us? The Princess and I attended a clown gathering to make our presentation….yup, they really get together in large groups, grin. Their group is called LUV_N_LAFFS Clown Alley. We made a presentation about AirFest and Fisher House Foundation and invited them to share the day with us. We knew Jo-Ann would “be in clown” for the event and hoped others would join in too. After they parked their PT Cruiser, Bill helped them set up their canopy next to the hospitality area and the fun began! To say the clowns added to the event is like saying the Grand Canyon is a hole in the ground….it’s so understated. PJ the clown did face paintings under the canopy most of the day to include the two Princesses. They would become roving cheerleaders for PJ’s art as they wandered around doing Princess stuff. JoJo and Curly Que mingled in and out of our display, and then onto the airport ramp with the spectators and the airplanes….it was just too cool. They made every child that saw them a little happier….and most of the adults too! It was the best new thing we have done at AirFest in the last 5 years!
Sometime around Noon our group began to hand out our tokens of appreciation to the participants of our display. Everyone but Andrew joined in; he was playing Uncle and chasing a little curious munchkin all over the airport. Maybe it was a test run to see if he and Angela could keep up with the little energy machines…..grin Anyway the rest of us thanked each participant for bringing out their prized ride, in the rain. Some came from as far away as Annapolis, MD, about 130 miles away and Harrisonburg, VA, about 75 miles away….in the dark…..in the rain. Some have been with us for all five years and some have joined us for the first time this year. It is just amazing to me/us how some people will selflessly come out and share their ride with thousands of people they don’t know to benefit people they don’t know and will never know them. It’s one of the good things that makes up the fabric of our Country….it’s what/who we are.
The biggest ‘take away’ I had from this year’s event is the way we made lemonade. Did I mention that the day’s weather was worse than miserable? That it was cold, raining, windy and gloomy all day? It would have been so very easy to turn inward and complain about the circumstances that we had no control over and then the day would have been dreadful for everyone. Or we could just press on working the event, solving problems as they came to us. Encouraging each other, keeping our thoughts on the mission to make our part of the event as enjoyable as we could to the spectators and in the process we would find enjoyment in that. We succeeded! We took the lemons the weather gave us and made some lemonade….
Posted by Slacker at 10:44 AM