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2010 Air Shows

WWII Weekend, Reading, Pa. June 4-6

Location: Reading Regional Airport, Reading, Pennsylvania
Admission: $22 at the gate and $10 for children, discounted on internet in advance
Parking: free. Access is by a single, two lane road so be prepared for delays. Overall the organizers do a good job under difficult conditions. Parking is scattered about the facility with bus service  provided to the show area. Again, be prepared for long lines waiting on the buses.
Value: Good

This year was the 20 th Anniversary of this event and it was subtitled as “A Gathering of Warbirds” held at the Mid Atlantic Air Museum, Reading Airport. This annual event is one of the largest gathering of: WWII re-enactors, battle re-creations, Flea Market vendors with military surplus gear, and several veterans appearing as special quests. There was a lot of variety, for sure, but in essence the air show truly draws the majority of the attendees to the weekend festival. Thus, WWII Weekend Festival is a good value for the buck!

How did it measure up to the previous air shows? If the attendee had never been at this show, the event was quite good over all. However, if one attended previous shows, like I did in 2008 and my fellow photographer in 2007, 2008 and 2009, to be frank, it did not measure up to previous shows! In many ways it was very disappointing, and this view is not just our opinion, but several persons we talked to at the event on Saturday and Sunday. In conclusion, it was an event that would have been an excellent one if only the organizers paid a bit more attention how the event unfolded, which they failed to do, during the 3 day long event. The food selection was typical that one finds at events like this, the food being a bit over priced, however the bottled water was only $2.00, as at most shows it is $3.00!! Interesting enough the bar at the Officers Club, did not served any alcoholic beverages, cold beer would have been nice in the hot muggy days, all the liqueur and beer bottles were only decoration!
Friday: was the typical arrival day for most of the participating aircraft, and set up for some of the re-enactors and vendors to get it together for the weekend. Thus it wasn’t really a show per say, and it was as per usual, the last minute rush to set up everything. This was a non-issue with the typical no shows for some of the aircraft such as the Stuka (7:10 scale replica) or the P-38 for such an event of its type. Even the weather more or less cooperated on Friday and there was a practice flight by a few aircraft such as the Quick Silver P-51D Mustang.
Saturday: the event was swamped by record attendance, and this was painfully evident in the line ups for food and sanitation facilities. By 11 a.m., waiting time exceeded 30 minutes for both, and it was truly horrible for the portable toilets. This is not acceptable, especially in an event where the weather is usually quite hot and humid, and where a large amount of water consumption is highly recommended in order not to suffer from dehydration. The event needs more portable toilets and spread out better with additional locations. Apart from the long line ups for food and sanitation facilities, the event had a large amount of dead spots, where nothing was happening to keep the attention of the audience. The event should have been spread out more evenly time wise, giving the attendees something to look forward to, versus just sitting around from 8:30 a.m., and letting them wait for the actual show events which did not start until 12 p.m. There was a military convoy made up of several WWII vintage vehicles that was interesting, but that was only a small time filler. Even after the show started, the main event that most of the attendees came to see, the air show did not start until 2:00 p.m. In order to secure a good viewing spot, one had to come early, 8:30 a.m., to stake the spot out with camping chairs. In essence the organizers should have planned the event with more care, and keep the dead time to a minimum for all the spectators. Yes, while this gave plenty of time for the attendees to visit the re-enactors’ camp grounds, or the flea market, it still left way too much time for them to be bored!!! The actual air show wasn’t too bad, but it was hard to hear the announcer, more speakers should be utilized. While the speaker quantities were not adequate, their placement was very good, they did not block the flight line view, which is so typical at air shows, so that was very positive. While we are mentioning positive things, the random placement of wooden benches for the attendees to use was also appreciated by many. As for the re-enactors, I spoke to some of them, such as the 9th Re-enactment Society, who were far from happy. When I was at the Reading show in 2008 they had several reproduction German military vehicles on display and took place in mock battles. However, these vehicles were not present on the 20 th Anniversary show. When I asked the group, where are the vehicles, since they gave the event so much more presence, I was informed, since they were representing the “Waffen SS,” the organizers for this did not allow them to display the license plates of their vehicles, because they start with “SS”! Is the Reading WWII Weekend trying to rewrite history? Maybe they should learn a bit about history, and if they want to re-enact history, they should not bar the symbolism of units which fought in the Second World War.

Sunday’s show by far was the absolute worst day, of the 3 day event. While the organizers could blame it on the weather, it would not be exactly a valid excuse, as they had plenty of time to move up some of the events to work around the potential rain, but they elected not do so. Instead of making announcements of “maybe” they should have been more proactive, since between 8:30 a.m. and until 12p.m., nothing happened! What a waste of time and truly disappointing for many! If the event would have started at 10, or 10:30 or even at 11 a.m., the attendees could have enjoyed the many WWII aircraft participating in the air show! While I understand that to move the air show time requires FAA approval, the actual air show could have been planned to start earlier, spreading it out better, and in case of potential bad weather interference. I did notice that several aircraft which offered rides: B-17 Yankee Lady, B-25 Panchito, the Helldiver, P-51D, T-6, etc, where very busy during the dead times, so at least the few who paid for such thrills were happy, while the rest of the attendees where not. The actual event started at 12, with the “President Roosevelt” getting off a vintage Douglas transport plane and his speech, which seems to be the same every year. The actual air show dragged out to 2:25p.m. before they got a participating T-6 up in the air. Soon after that it started to rain, and most of the attendees had left, when it changed from a slight rainfall to a heavy downpour! The show announced that the rain would be on for about one hour or so, but they will continue if the weather will clear up. Regardless due to heavy downpour, and with very limited covered space against the downpour, many decided to call it a day and left, including myself feeling very disappointed! The disappointment might have been avoided by starting the show a bit earlier, by avoiding the painfully evident dead spot of 3 1/2 hours, thus giving the attendees the air show they obviously came to see. There are lessons to be learned here for the organizers if they are willing to notice and improve the event. 20th Anniversary or not, over all this year’s event did not measure up to previous ones, and this is not just my own opinion, but a reflection of several long time attendees from the neighbouring area. Apparently after the rain stopped (about hour later) the air show continued too for the few who found shelter against the rain or had umbrellas and stuck it out.

.Some of the participants were:

  • B-17 Memphis Belle (static)
  • B17 Yankee Lady (offered rides)
  • Avro Lancaster
  • Curtiss SB2C Helldiver (offered rides)
  • P-51D Mustang Quick Silver
  • P-51D Mustang Glamorous Gal
  • P-51D Red Nose (offered rides)
  • Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless (offered rides)
  • B-25J Mitchell Panchito (offered rides)
  • B-25D Yankee Warrior
  • B-25J Mitchell Briefing Time
  • P-47M Thunderbolt
  • Supermarine Spitfire MK XVIII
  • and many more

 

Rating: as far as the air show 6.5 out of 10
     
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