Planes, exhibits wow crowds at Salute to Veterans Airshow

Saturday, May 26, 2012 | 8:58 p.m. CDT; updated 8:14 p.m. CDT, Sunday, May 27, 2012
The 24th annual Salute to Veterans Corporation 2012 Memorial Day Weekend Celebration Air Show honors the service of current and former armed forces members.

COLUMBIA — Thirteen-year-old Cole Brizendine wants to be an Air Force pilot when he grows up. He said he's always wanted to fly.

The Jamesport teenager has been to the Salute to Veterans Airshow every year since he was 5. His favorite plane at the airshow is the A-10 Thunderbolt, a military plane.

"I like it's style, it's main (use) of ground support, the way it looks," Cole said. 

His love of planes was fostered by his father, Paul Brizendine. Brizendine grew up during the Vietnam War and used to watch F-4 Phantoms fly over the treetops of his countryside home.

Brizendine's ties to the military run deep. His father served in the Army infantry during World War I. Two of his brothers served in the Navy before the Gulf War. Although neither of his brothers served in a war, several of his friends were killed.

The 24th Annual Salute to Veterans Airshow was an opportunity for both father and son to appreciate the military and the planes.  The airshow began Saturday morning with the takeoff of the Dawn Patrol flying World War I replica airplanes.

Later, the US Army 101st Airborne Division "Screaming Eagles" Parachute Demonstration Team jumped out of a plane during the national anthem. They were joined by the Canadian Forces Parachute Demonstration Team, the SkyHawks. One member descended with a large American flag attached to the parachute.

On the ground, a C-17 military cargo plane, the largest plane exhibited, was one of the most popular attractions. Spectators were allowed to walk up into the cargo area of the plane, which can hold more than 60 people. A long line waited to climb up into the cockpit.

Bobby Rains, a member of the Air Force Reserve, entertained children by letting them pull on a chain attached to the floor of the cargo area.

"If you can pull out that chain, you can have the plane," he said to them.

The C-17's appearance in movies such as "Transformers" and "Eagle Eye" make the plane a popular attraction, Rains said.

"It's a great recruiter," he said. 

In addition to the C-17, more than 20 aircraft were on display. After its performance, the Dawn Patrol set up World War I-era planes next to posters that explained the history of each model.

During a break in air demonstrations, the US Army K-9 Corps Demonstration Team performed with a German shepherd in front of a large audience. The dog completed an agility course and demonstrated several situations it was trained for, such as stopping a running suspect by biting and pulling on his arm.

Also during the break, a ceremony commemorated veterans and honored this year's guests.

Other spectators were drawn to the smells of funnel cakes, french fries and corn dogs wafting from the various vendors scattered across the tarmac. Tropical Sno and Scoops Ice Cream offered cool treats to beat the heat.

Those too hot to sit in the sun and watch the show visited the first aid tent, which was run by the Community Emergency Response Team.

The CERT tent offered several ways to cool down: kids could run through a sprinkler set up in the grass, and adults enjoyed a light spray of water from a misting machine.

Several people were affected by overheating, said CERT volunteer Barbara Ball.

"People forget to drink," she said. Those attending the Sunday show should drink water, wear sunscreen and take the exhibit slowly, Ball said.

The airshow performances ended at 3:15 p.m. Salute to Veterans Week continues with an airshow from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday.

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