04/18/11 — Take 2: This time with sun

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Take 2: This time with sun

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on April 18, 2011 1:46 PM

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Bruce Brewer plays airplane with his daughter Abby, 2, during the Wings Over Wayne Air Show Sunday. More than 100,000 people showed up to see the Thunderbirds and the static displays as well as the other aerial acts.

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Nathanial Jewett, 4, covers his ears while sitting on his father Chad's shoulders as the Thunderbirds race by during the show.

Addison Marsh was caught off-guard when four members of the Air Force Thunderbirds streaked overhead from behind her.

"It scared me," the 7-year-old said, searching the skies for the air show headliners with one hand blocking the sun. "They snuck up on us."

Her father, Thomas, laughed.

"Snuck up?" he said. "It's kind of hard for jets like those to sneak up, baby. Maybe you should pay better attention."

Moments before the Thunderbirds took flight, Wings Over Wayne director Maj. James Ladd said more than 100,000 people had come through the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base gates Sunday to take in the show.

And when the elite demonstration team began what was scheduled to be the final aerial performance of the day, the majority of those on hand turned their focus to the action unfolding above them.

Tisha Freeman uncovered her ears so she could cheer with her hands after two of the pilots flew "on top of each other."

"That was the coolest thing ever," the 12-year-old said. "I thought they were gonna crash."

And Shane Perez showed off his dance moves when several of the aircraft let out long streaks of white smoke.

"That's what he does when he gets excited," his mother, Natalia, said of her 3-year-old. "He bounces up and down."

But the Thunderbirds were not the only act that brought the crowd to its knees.

In fact, the most emotional reaction seemed to come when crews from Tora!Tora!Tora! got their Pearl Harbor re-enactment under way.

Wallace Branson wiped tears from his eyes as Japanese Zeros, Kates and Vals buzzed through the clouds.

"I joined the Marines because the World War II boys were my heroes," the 68-year-old said. "It still makes me mad to think about all the great ones who didn't make it home."

And scanning the crowd during the performance made him think about those he said truly sacrifice during times of war.

"It's the families who pay the price," he said. "When I went to Vietnam, I was a single young man, but most of us weren't. See all these people -- the sons, daughters, mothers? They're the ones who lost it all when a man went down."

The re-enactment touched Margaret Rose, too.

"Watching the skies go from peaceful to chaos must have been so terrifying for those boys," she said. "Sitting quietly through this is the least we can do to honor their sacrifice."

Taking in high-speed flight was not the only way spectators honored those who have worn -- and those who currently wear -- the nation's uniform.

Lynwood Pope put down his hot dog and drink to free up a hand to extend to an airman.

"Thanks man. I heard you guys have been to Afghanistan a lot lately," he said.

And Sheila and Erica Matthews used as much film on the service members they came across as they did on the aircraft and attractions that drew them on to Seymour Johnson.

"Every time I see a soldier, I try to get a picture with him for my Facebook page," Erica said. "I have a folder that's only pictures of military stuff."

Sheila smiled.

"Half of me thinks it's real patriotic," she said, giving her sister a playful push. "The other half thinks she's shopping for a husband."

Base officials said this morning that they were pleased with how smoothly Day Two of Wings Over Wayne went -- drawing 100,000 people Sunday was critical after the much-hyped show, one officials boasted could draw some 300,000 over the course of the weekend, got off to a shaky start.

The first day of the air show was cut short when high winds and threats of thunderstorms grounded many of the aerial acts -- airmen working the entry points speculated that only a few thousand people turned out Saturday.