Veterans get first look at air show demonstration

Friday, May 23, 2014 | 6:05 p.m. CDT; updated 8:36 p.m. CDT, Saturday, May 24, 2014

COLUMBIA—Nine red and white planes soared through the sky over Columbia Regional Airport on Friday as roughly 50 veterans and their families watched the Royal Canadian Air Force's Snowbirds demonstration team practice a routine for the 26th annual Salute to Veterans Celebration.

The air show will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday at the airport. This year’s event will celebrate the 100th anniversary of World War I with a showing of 16 World War I replica planes Saturday. Featured acts include the Snowbirds demonstration team and the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team

The Snowbirds make their first appearance at the air show in 12 years, and the Golden Knights return after a 15-year absence.

Korean War veteran Vannis Gray, 84, said he attended the preview Friday to avoid the weekend crowd and watch the Snowbirds.

“Their precision is awesome,” he said.

Gray’s interest in planes stems from having a childhood friend who flew with the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration team.

Retired Navy reserve William Donaldson, 73, also said he came out to watch the Canadians.

“I’ve always loved airplanes,” he said.

Donaldson was a radio man who served three tours in Vietnam during a nine-year career in the Navy. Despite missing last year’s show, he said he tries to come out for the show every year.

Like Donaldson, many of the veterans are annual attendees.

Retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Arnold Fields, 67, said he first came to the air show in 2000 as a speaker representing the Marines.

“I have come every year with maybe one or two exceptions, during which time I was overseas or on active duty,” he said.

Fields, who is a veteran of the Vietnam and Gulf wars, said he enjoys meeting other veterans and their family members every year.

“I also enjoy the people of this community who outpour their patriotism to the service men and women in uniform and the respect and homage that they pay to those who gave their lives or who have died subsequent to having served,” he said.

Admission and parking for the air show are free. Attendees can take a shuttle from Hearnes Center or the Jefferson City Memorial Airport for $5 per person. A full schedule of the weekend’s events can be found here.

Supervising editor is Seth Klamann.

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