Saturday, October 15, 2016

AirFest 2016

For about a year we have been planning our involvement in the annual Culpeper Regional Airport air show called AirFest.  The airport allows us to display special vehicles for the 7,000-8,000 spectators that come to attend the free event.  This is our 8th year to provide a display at the event.  We do it to share our hobby with the spectators and we do it to provide access to information about the charity we support, The Fisher House Foundation.  Our group, Cruisin For Heroes has events all year to support Fisher House and other Veteran centric groups….like Paws4Vets. 
This year we were going to showcase race cars with their stock/original cousins….so people could see how the original cars morphed into the race cars.  We also invited Rolling Thunder, VA 3 to participate with us as well as Paws4Vets.  We had a USAAF display that was going to set up next to our Fisher House canopy.  We invited the clown troupe LUV-N-LAFFS to welcome the spectators as they arrived and do face paintings for the kids.  We invited Kandy and her Bumble Bee transformer Camaro to also welcome and interact with the spectators.  We had invited State Farm Insurance to set up a canopy to see if there was an opportunity for them to connect with the spectators, so they could consider sponsoring us next year.  We had invited our stalwart, current sponsor, Chrysler of Culpeper, to display some new cars.  We had commitments from 48 people to bring their special vehicles to the event.  We had sent 335 emails throughout the year to bring us to the day of the event….October 8, 2016.  This was to be our biggest & best event of the last 8 years!  Then Matthew started heading toward us.
Even 5 days after the event the folks in NC have not seen the extent of Mathew’s wrath, the water is still rising and people are drowning.  The loss of life has been heavy and the number will probably rise more as the water recedes.  All the damage is still not comprehended….it is truly a disaster.  Our thoughts and prayers for those affected continue each day….so sad….
Saturday morning at 4:30 we launched for the event.  It was misty and the weather radar showed rain everywhere that would stay all day.  We took our daily driver; the farm truck would stay dry in the garage.  We stopped at our local WAWA to pick up the three large boxes of coffee, cups and the other associated stuff for coffee drinkers.  We met Dan, one of our Cruisin For Heroes members, at the Southern States gas station to give him the event access passes that he would have to hand out to the participants as they came to the event. We arrived in the dark to find Lou already onsite with the Chrysler of Culpeper set up of 4 new cars in their designated spot.  Soon the rest of Cruisin For Heroes crew arrived and we all began setting up for the day….in the rain.  We erected Bob’s 10x20 canopy first as it would be the “hospitality” canopy….where the coffee and donuts that Lou brought would be kept.  The Princess would be in charge of assisting people with the coffee & donuts….in the rain.
Soon the twilight came and with it Rolling Thunder, State Farm, LUV-N-LAFFS clown troupe….that would be all that braved the rainy gloomy day.  We set up the Fisher House canopy then waited….in the rain.
David brought his very cool blue new Mustang then Bill came in with his new find. a 1984 Buick Grand National.  Joe braved the rain and drove his ’46 Chevy Pickup to the event.  Andrew brought his daily driver, the dark blue new Camaro.  And Dan brought his black ’55 Chevy.  That was the extent of the 48 special vehicles that was scheduled to attend!
Each year I design the graphics for the appreciation plaque we give all the attendees….this year it showcased the B-25 “Panchito” and Andrew’s blue ’68 Camaro.  Andrew is one of our group that has been helping with AirFest since we started in 2009.  His Camaro is the result of a family effort of Andrew, his Dad & Uncle pooling their skill and time to produce the awesome example of Chevrolet’s first “Muscle Car”.
So….around 9:15 we sat/stood under the Fisher House canopy, in the rain, and eagerly awaited the much anticipated first school bus that would bring the flood (pun intended) of spectators to the event.  We positioned our display next to the only access gate to the event.  We waited….in the rain  Finally we saw the yellow creeper splashing toward us through the rain….it was heading to the disembarkation spot in the parking lot, next to the State Farm canopy.  We were getting a little giddy thinking about all our preparation over the last year….this was the payoff!  The bus lurched to a bouncing stop….the bifold door slowly opened….the first person came down the stairs and stepped in a puddle of water as he walked to higher ground.  He looked a little uneasy; we were ALL staring at the bus and him.  We waited for the rest of the spectators to make their way off the bus….we waited….and waited….in the rain.  He was the first, middle and last of the occupants of the bus, beside the driver.  This was going to be a long….wet day.  As the day progressed more spectators would brave the rain and ride a bus from one of the parking lots of the two local High Schools to the event.  But even though each bus would hold 45 people there was never more than 12-14 people getting off any bus the rest of the time we were onsite.
Two airplanes took off to test the flying conditions but the “airshow” would be brief for the day.  Some of the exhibitions would go forward, like the R/C airplane flying but for the most part is was an abbreviated event. 
The clown troupe was very busy but the rest of us were just standing under our respective canopies watching the spectators making their way to the ramp and what was left of the event.  As the adrenalin began to subside we started to notice that we were wet…..not just a little wet but fall in the lake wet!  Then we noticed that we were also cold….and that the feeling in our feet was gone.  We began to realize how miserable we were….and if we were, so was the rest of the folks that were standing in the rain.
I called Tanya, the airport manager, and informed her that we were calling it a day….  The spectators were running past us to the event then running back to the waiting busses….in the rain.  Very few were looking at any of the 5 special vehicles that were sitting….in the rain.  Few were stopping at any of the display canopies except for the clowns….  It was time for us to leave.
Everyone pitched in to help take down the display….Dan even helped dispose of the left over donuts!  And another rainy day at AirFest was done.  It rained all day the first time we set up a display in 2009 and has rained three other times since then.  Something to think about….perhaps.


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