Despite Heat, Air Show Draws A Crowd At New Garden Airport Near Kennett Square, Veteran Pilots And Vintage Aircraft Made About 3,000 Spectators Glad They Attended.

Posted: June 12, 2000

NEW GARDEN — The shimmering sun was periodically, though very temporarily, eclipsed yesterday as the Colonial Flying Corps Museum's 29th annual air show took to the sky above the New Garden Airport.

Despite temperatures in the 90s, an estimated 3,000 people swarmed the airfield near Kennett Square, many bringing beach umbrellas and picnic blankets.

"We learned from experience," said Joseph Roten, who sat with his wife, Virginia, and family under an umbrella while watching aerobatics. "We've got plenty of water and plenty of shade."

Overhead, restored World War II-era airplanes twisted and turned, soaring or seeming to fall from the sky.

Roten, a former paratrooper from Cochranville, was among those who hailed the Flying Farmer routine as a traditional favorite.

"Isn't he the best?" Carol Aiken of Wilmington said of Roger Lehnert, whose performance as the Flying Farmer included such heart-stopping antics as nearly skimming treetops and shakily landing on one wheel before ascending again into the humid air.

"I've seen him perform 20 times and could see him 20 times more and be just as excited," said Aiken, a longtime volunteer at the Air Show who was busy passing out cold water bottles to participants.

The heat apparently kept the crowd smaller than in years past but did not seriously affect the show, according to Everitt duPont, the show's director as well as the airport manager.

"The volunteer firemen have hooked up hoses for people to cool off with," he said, noting that beverages and crushed-ice fruit drinks also were available.

DuPont had been planning the show since January, lining up talents such as Matt Chapman, a Kennett Square man who has twice been a member of the U.S. aerobatic team and was a bronze medalist at the 1998 World Aerobatic Championships in Slovakia.

Three members of the New Jersey-based Drop Zone parachuting team also dropped in, landing gracefully on firm ground.

"I've been jumping for 20 years . . . all over the world," said Tony Domenico, who has made more than 10,000 jumps. Domenico was a member of the 282-person team that set a world record in Thailand in December for the largest parachuting formation.

Stunts and vintage planes make the day one to remember, said duPont.

"It gives people a chance to see the good side of aviation, instead of hearing about plane crashes or low-flying aircraft or other problems," he said.

"One of the things we have that other air shows don't is this country as a background. It's the rolling hills of Chester County, and the landscape is just beautiful."

Kate Herman's e-mail address is kherman@phillynews.com

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