This past weekend the Tyler area and the nation celebrated the country’s two hundred, thirty fourth birthday. In the wake of tough financial times the celebrations seemed to me a bit more muted than normal. News reports claimed that fewer Americans spent the usual dollars on fireworks and cook- outs than in previous years, while more people went out to watch big professional fireworks displays. I remember as a kid spending a lot of money on fireworks and even experimented with creating my out, (something I don’t recommend to young people today). But not this year. Instead my young son and I did what many families did this year; we took in some professional and inexpensive events that didn’t require us to go out of our way.
Every year a number of local organizations put on an air show featuring contemporary and vintage military aircraft. These events seem to be held at different locations around East Texas, and admission is always very pricey. However as aircraft arrive the previous day, (the third) The Historical Aviation Memorial Museum (HAMM) holds what they call a “static air show.” Participating aircraft are put on display on the tarmac at the old Pounds Field terminal in Tyler, (now the location for the museum) prior to the main show. For five dollars, visitors can get up close and personal (in most cases) with some really unique and fascinating aircraft. This year’s cast included a C130, a couple of F16s, a couple of A10s, a B25, and others, in addition to the aircraft on permanent display. My little guy was fascinated by the exhibits (as was I by the way), and enjoyed the opportunity to climb in and around the C130 Hercules in particular. This is a really neat event that is inexpensive and helps to raise a little money for a great area institution.
The rest of our weekend was rather subdued I introduced the boy to the joy of sparklers and few other rudimentary fireworks (a gift from friends) and that night we walked up the street to watch much larger display put on by our community. I don’t think this admittedly mundane story is much different than the one most folks are telling this year. Hopefully, the decline in festivities is merely symptomatic of the fact that collectively, we’re not in a partying mood and doesn’t indicate that we are forgetting the reason for the season (if I can borrow a badly misapplied cliché). But it’s often the small events that we remember. And hopefully, in years to come, my son will be able to reflect on the year “we saw the airplanes and the lights,” with fond nostalgia.
For more on the Historical Aviation Memorial Museum, see their website at www.tylerhamm.org. Also see the following articles on this site: Cultural Institutions and Events in Tyler TX, and World History is Down the Street.