The American Barnstormers Tour, a nostalgic salute to the barnstormers who ventured across America during the 1920s seeking fame and fortune in their biplanes, is visiting the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport now through Saturday. As many as 14 meticulously-restored vintage aircraft from the 1920s and 1930s will journey across the Midwest on a five-city tour from Aug. 9-16.
The tour aircraft will be on display from approximately 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (weather permitting) and admission is free. Though driving to the airport is slightly complicated by the Melby Street construction, which runs between Starr Avenue and Anderson Drive, just off of Business 53. Drivers can instead take Eddy Lane west and then turn right on Starr Avenue. The airport is at 3800 Starr Ave.
All barnstormers participate in recreating the era with period costumes, aircraft signs, historical information, and vintage props. They are aviation ambassadors and share stories and personal history of their aircraft.
Each day the airplanes will perform the “Barnstormers Parade of Flight” with Jeff Montgomery its master of ceremonies. The audience will hear tall tales of barnstorming and learn the history of each biplane as the pilots fly overhead.
For a $70 fee, a spectator can take a ride on a restored Travel Air or New Standard vintage biplane. The biplane rides are be available daily weather permitting. The biplanes can take up to four passengers at a time and the rides in the open cockpit planes are for 15 minutes. No reservations are needed and all ages can fly.
“These aren’t airplanes, they’re time machines” said tour organizer Clay Adams. “Our tour gives people from all over the country the chance to travel back in time and experience the same sights, sounds, and excitement they would have felt some 80 years ago as they looked out across the fields and saw the barnstormers on the horizon.“
The period between the end of World War I (1918) and the United States’ entry into World War II (1941) is remembered as “The Golden Age of Aviation.” Barnstorming tours, trophy races, and record-setting flights all captured the public’s attention as they raced to see the daring flocks of birdman, and take their first flight in an open cockpit airplane.
The American Barnstormers Tour started with an antique Travel Air biplane on a grass airfield in Iowa. Plans formed to resurrect the barnstorming tours of the 1920s, where local citizens would see their first airplane up close, or perhaps spend a few dollars for their first flight. Tour organizers Clay Adams and Sarah Wilson saw an opportunity to give visitors a chance to connect the past with the present.
The first American Barnstormers Tour lifted off in 2006 with 17 airplanes from Kalamazoo, Mich., and traveled through five states to end at Air Venture in Oshkosh. In 2008 the Tour crossed Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri and grew to 19 aircraft.
In 2010 more than 20,000 people traveled to see their 17 aircraft tour the Great Plains. For the summer of 2012 the American Barnstormers are flying with a slightly smaller crew of about 14 airplanes.
Event updates can be found at www.chippewavalleyairport.com.
For more information on the event contact Charity Speich at 715 839-6241.