Any longtime reader of this blog (or my instagram feed, @shanachristine) might have picked up on the fact that Raines, my oldest, is obsessed with WWII. We don’t really know where it came from. He went from a train obsession to planes and then to….war. WWII, specifically, with a special passion for the dogfights that happened in Pacific, and D-Day itself. As a parent, our philosophy has always been to support and even fuel their passions (a philosophy that was sorely tested with years of mind-numbing train facts), so when I heard that one of the largest WWII gatherings occurs each June, barely an hour from Philly? Well. Game. On.
Admittedly, I had some pretty low expectations for the Mid Atlantic Air Museum’s World War Two Weekend. I thought we’d show up, see some stuff, Raines would be mildly impressed (check the box – yay parents), go home.
Instead….minds were blown that weekend. BLOWN.
This weekend isn’t just about seeing a few planes fly around and maybe a gun or two….it’s a total and complete WWII experience. Thanks to a (literal) army of dedicated re-enactors, there’s entire military camps re-created – both on the Western and Pacific fronts. Tour the German camp (even late at night) and you’ll see Nazi “soldiers” playing cards, smoking, and listening to German music from the 40’s.
Pax being helped out of a Nazi Tiger Tank
The magic started in the parking lot(!!), as we walked to the shuttle. A plane flew overhead and Raines freaked out: “IT FLIES!!! MOM IT FLIES!!! I CAN’T BELIEVE IT STILL FLIES” he cried, falling to his knees in ecstasy. It was a P-51 Mustang, Raines’ long-time favorite WWII fighter.
Various WWII planes fly overhead all weekend long (for $$$ I think you can even take a ride in some of them), and many of the larger bombers can be toured. They even do mock dogfights at various times.
One of our very favorite parts was the re-created French Village (complete with family residents – including kids! Seriously the re-enactors make this weekend.). During the day, Allied soldiers storm the town which is currently in German possession. Pax was a little scared, and Raines watched every move, quietly. After the demonstration, we moved into the faux French flea market, and found all kinds of vintage army gear to fit the boys.
But it was later in the night – after dinner – that the real magic happened. That’s when all the kids – all dressed in varying degrees of “soldier” – spontaneously came to play in the French village.
The game? War, of course. (sigh)
This weekend, ultimately, is so special because of the passion. The passion of people who care about the history, about honoring the sacrifices made, and in some cases, the passion of people who actually lived through it. It’s an emotional weekend, too. There aren’t many WWII veterans still alive, and I felt lucky watching Raines talk about the experience of flying planes in the Pacific with someone who had actually done it.
The Mid-Atlantic WWII Weekend occurs over D-Day weekend in June (this year it’s June 5, 6, and 7th). You can buy tickets online until 5/26, and then they are always available at the gate (if you do buy online, get tickets for the chicken dinner – it comes with shaded seating). Which reminds me: it was crazy-hot last year, and I’ve been told it’s hot every year. This year we’ll probably plan to get there a little later in the day (we always go on Saturday) since our favorite time to walk around is after dinner. At the end of the night there’s a huge swing dance, preceeded by a re-enactment of President Roosevelt’s Day of Infamy speech, and performances by The Manhattan Dolls. You can tell which attendees come every year – they’re dressed in period costume, just like the re-enactors.
Happy Memorial Day, everyone.