The sweet aroma of freshly cooked kettle corn was thick at the Castle Air Museum on Sunday, amid dozens of military aircraft on display and the smiles of attentive youth and adults alike, as thousands of people turned out for the museum’s Open Cockpit Day.
Joe Pruzzo, CEO of Castle Air Museum, estimated about 3,000 turned out for Sunday’s event, which had about 35 of the museum’s 60 vintage aircraft open for viewing, including the museum’s crown jewel – the former Air Force One, a Douglas VC-9.
Along with the numerous aircraft on display, Sunday’s Open Cockpit Day included a flight simulator, a food court and bounce houses for kids. The event also had helicopter rides, aircraft models for children to make, law enforcement displays and radio-control aircraft exhibits. “We’re always trying to build on it and make it a really good family experience,” Pruzzo said.
Volunteers were available at various airplanes on display at the museum, giving attendees background information on each airplane. Many of those volunteers were war veterans, who were able to share important information about how the planes operated, and stories about the missions that were flown. “That’s real history, because those (veterans) were there,” Pruzzo said. “You can read about it in a book, but when you’re getting it firsthand, it’s really special.”
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There was no shortage of parents attending Sunday’s event with their children in hand. Jose Amezcua, 37, and his wife, Priscilla Amezcua, 28, brought their four small children along, hoping to provide a history lesson that was both fun and educational. Jose Amezcua said it was particularly inspiring to hear the many veterans tell their stories. “These kids won’t know about this knowledge unless we bring it to them,” he said.
“It’s pretty cool to learn about our history, and be able to get inside of the planes,” said Genesis Amezcua, the couple’s 9-year-old daughter.
Aaron Robinson, 33, said the last time he visited Castle Air Museum was during a field trip as a youth. Robinson brought his three children along Sunday. “The boys love planes,” Robinson said. “It’s good for them, because every time they see a plane in the air, it’s the biggest thing, so now they get to see them on the ground.”
Open Cockpit Day is held twice a year at Castle Air Museum – on the Sundays of Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.