Sunday, October 11, 2015

AirFest 2015

Saturday morning began at 4AM for us….we had been planning this event since October 12, 2014.  It was our 7th annual Culpeper Regional Airport AirFest 2015.  The airport puts on a free airshow event at the airport and our group, Cruisin For Heroes, provides a lot full of special interest vehicles for the 7000+ spectators to check out as they enter and leave the airport ramp.  We hand pick the invitees for their personality as well as their special ride….we don’t want grumpy people representing our hobby to the curious spectators.  We also don’t want junky or uninteresting vehicles to display….we really have to pick the rides, that’s why we call it an invitational display.  We spend most of the year at car shows and cruises picking out our special subjects to invite.  We try to carryover about half of the vehicles from previous years and the other half to be new vehicles & people.  We currently have about 70 people that have committed to assist us if they are available!

This year we again invited some clowns from Love-n-laffs Clown Alley to offer face painting and walking around among the spectators doing clown stuff….this was very well received the first time last year.  Another group we support, Paws4Vets, attended to display & explain their service dog program.  Rolling Thunder Inc., Virginia Chapter 3, had a canopy to explain the many ways their group supports our Veterans.  And our group, CFH, staffs our Fisher House Foundation canopy all day to share the mission of Fisher House with anyone that wants to know.  We provide all the participants with a token of our appreciation in the form of a yearly specific, custom designed plaque reflecting their day at the airport.  This is the second year that the cost of the plaques was assumed by Chrysler of Culpeper so we invited them to display some of their new cars and staff the event with a canopy and salesmen. 

The vehicles we provide vary from a super modified race car to a stock 1947 Chevy Pickup.  We have a 2006 Ford GT-40 and a whole bunch of hot rods.  We have G&K Pulling Team bring out some of their ‘Garden Tractor Pullers’ and this year for the first time we invited a restored Military Jeep complete with all the period correct accoutrements….like a pintle mounted M-60.  We have muscle cars both old and new.  We have motorcycles and this year one of our invitees was a lady that has a yellow & black Camaro she calls Bumble Bee.  She has a costume she wears at special occasions that makes her look like a ‘transformer’ figure.  She was at the entrance to our display lot and most of the kids going into the airport ramp paused to see and chat with her while their parents took pictures of them.    I think she really added to the enjoyment of many kids Saturday.  The spectators mingle among the vehicles and ask questions of the owners….while it provides a little stimulation to the memory banks of many people.

Like I said above this is our 7th year at this…..we have it pretty well figured out.  Like any event held outside, weather is a concern and we usually begin stressing about it two weeks out.  My Dad was a fighter pilot in WWII, he flew a P-51 Mustang and I remember him relating to me that the weather people back then “got it right” about half the time.  I have read accounts of our air missions in SEA and weather was always a critical part of the equation….and it was wrong many times.  So we watch the weather a lot when we have an event we are putting on.  I have four weather sites I consult to try to get a consensus on what will happen in the next 24 hours!  And that makes me crazy….the same people want to change my life because of something they say is going to happen a long way in the future…..but they can’t get a 24 hour forecast correct!?  That….is a discussion for another time.  We had experienced some major rainfall in addition to the wet remnants of hurricane Joaquin running up the coast the week before our event.  We checked the display lot Friday afternoon and it was in stable condition.  But later that night a major cold front came buzzing through and apparently dumped massive amounts of water in the Brandy Station area (the actual location of the airport).  We are about 35 miles from the airport and had some rain but only for 20-25 min and not too much actual water with it, mostly just wind.  We arrived at the display lot at 6AM….to a soggy field in the dark!  The first vehicles we park are the trailered ones….which are also the heaviest ones…..which found the soft spots and promptly sank. 

One of our group members was absent that day, another one was late and one was about two miles away handing out special entry passes to everyone.  So there were only three of us, in the dark, in the mud….waving our flashlights around.  One of the trailer displays that didn’t have any trouble with the soft ground, had a massive Ford 4WD truck.  He volunteered to extricate the stuck truck & trailer.  But we discovered that there were other “soft spots” in the lot as another vehicle promptly got stuck too.  It was an antique so we got it out with the help of the hands of the other people that brought vehicles.  Our group huddled and determined that about 1/3 of the display lot was unusable!  As the sun’s rays started peeking over the horizon I noticed/remembered that our critical traffic control guy (the late guy I mentioned above) was still not at his station as some of the display vehicles were driving right by our lot.  I tried to call him, no response.  The display vehicles kept coming in and I had to park them in a holding lot while we gently worked the vehicles through the quagmire to a safe area one at a time.  Then my “late” guy drove up abruptly, jumped out and announced that he had hit a deer on the way in and was dealing with that when I called!  He quickly took up his spot and began directing the cars and helping the process….whew! 

We have only one entrance & exit for our display lot so we usually park the display cars from the back to the front to avoid collisions and confusion.  With so much of the lot unusable we had to carefully pick out where the ground was stable enough to park the vehicles and by taking time to do that, the number of the cars in the ‘holding lot’ was mounting up.  Plus we also had to allow space for the cars that hadn’t arrived yet so we had to bunch up some of the vehicles in the back of the lot.  As it worked out about 10 people decided not to attend so the space we were holding for them was utilized to spread out some of the remaining vehicles, but we never unknotted the bunched up vehicles in the back.  By the time we realized we would have some extra room the school busses filled with spectators that had parked at the two Culpeper High Schools, began to arrive!  It was just too dangerous to try to move cars around with people walking through the lot.  As soon as all the vehicles were parked we turned our attention to setting up the canopies for the Dealer, Paws4Vets, Clowns, Fisher House and our hospitality canopy with the coffee & donuts we furnish.  Rolling Thunder Inc is a pretty much self contained group; we just watched them set up….grinning….

This year the airport had many more aircraft in their program, I’m told about 50 altogether.  I am busy all day with our display and rarely get a chance to see the air show or visit the static displays and vendors.  It seems like I take a water brake around 11 then we begin our award distribution then I try to photograph our part of the deal then it’s time to help everyone pack up and exit the area.  Everyone in our group has done this before; we know what has to happen so it just gets done!  I want to thank the guys in our group; Andrew Robertson, Dan Crane, Fred Davis, Lou Realmuto for their tireless focus on making this a great event for the spectators and the volunteers.  We want to thank the Volunteers for taking their time and bringing out their vehicle to support the mission of Cruisin For Heroes and Fisher House Foundation; Bill Bell, Bill Errera, Bill Morris, Bob Randall, Brian Murray, Corey Beach, Dallas Beach, Darryl Dawson, Dave Whetzel, David Beans, Don Rogers, Duane Mitchell, Glenn Conrad, Kandy Woehler, Mac McDonald, Mike Curles, Penn Jones, Raymond Carrier, Ricky Thornton, Ron Lacasse, Steven Dohl, Stuart Sullivan, Tim Ketchum, Tommy Kirtley, Warren Little and the Rolling Thunder Riders.

We have begun planning for next year’s event and will learn from this year’s experience.  We already have 8 volunteers….are you up for it?

Please check the pictures that Bill Errera, Darryl Dawson and I took at;

No comments: