04/17/11 — Winds shut down show

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Winds shut down show

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on April 17, 2011 1:50 AM

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C-17 pilot Justin Taylor answers questions from Julianna Morrow, 6, during her tour of the plane's cockpit at the Wings Over Wayne Air Show.

Marisa Polk only had a few seconds to make a critical decision.

"I didn't know whether to hold my hair to keep the wind from blowing it in my face or cover my ears," the 11-year-old said, moments after an F-15E Strike Eagle streaked overhead. "I'm glad I held onto my hair."

If she hadn't, she might have missed what she called the "most awesome" part of the first day of the Wings Over Wayne Air Show at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

Saturday left the few thousand people who showed up wanting more as they took in what little action unfolded before high winds prompted officials to, in essence, shut down the show.

Wings Over Wayne got off to a shaky start as storm conditions grounded the Air Force Thunderbirds, Tora!Tora!Tora and other aerial acts.

But those who arrived early still got a taste of what event planners said today would bring.

Blake Johnson jumped up and down when members of the Army Golden Knights fell from the sky.

"That is so cool," the 8-year-old said, pointing to the member of the team who had an American flag attached to his parachute. "That's gonna be me one day."

And the relentless wind didn't stop Courtney Stiles from enjoying a hot dog under the wing of an aging warbird.

"I love ketchup," the 5-year-old said, licking her fingers. "Mustard is gross."

Members of the Rollins family left Raleigh at 7 a.m. to get a good parking spot.

"I knew a storm was coming, but we still thought there would be a lot of people here," the family patriarch, James, said. "Had I known it'd be this small, we might have slept in a little bit."

His wife, Jenny, smiled.

"Look at those clouds. They'll cancel it soon enough, honey," she said, looking down at her two sons and daughter. "We can all get some sleep when we get home."

No more than an hour later, officials did, in fact, call it a day -- at least, for those scheduled to take to the skies.

But Aaron Tippin would still perform, they said.

Cindy McGee wasn't too disappointed.

"I came to see Aaron sing, so my day's not ruined," she said, pulling her 9-year-old son, Trey, in for a hug. "But he's kind of bummed out. He really wanted to see the Thunderbirds and we won't be able to make it out tomorrow."

Trey was visibly upset.

"It's not fair," he said, throwing his hands into the air. "The other jets were cool, but not like the Thunderbirds. Why couldn't they fly earlier, Mom?"

"These things happen," she replied. "People can't control the weather."

That little boy might have been disappointed, but 4th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Patrick Doherty wasn't.

In fact, he considered Day One a success.

"We got a lot more flying in than we were supposed to," he said.

And the fact that many of the acts did not perform should translate into a good Sunday turnout, the colonel said.

"It's setting up for a good show (today)," Doherty said. "It's gonna be a great day."

Some, though, were only thinking about what they missed out on Saturday.

"Well, I keep telling Trey that tomorrow is a big day for Christians so we'll be at church," Mrs. McGee said. "So it's a shame today

had to work out this way. He's been looking forward to this for weeks and now he's heartbroken."

It is unclear just how many people attended Wings Over Wayne Saturday, but an airman working one of the entry points said he "would be surprised" if there were more than 5,000 on hand.

The show is expected to follow its regular, full schedule today.