AirFest Draws Aviation Fans, Pilots to Lower Township
September 5, 2020
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  • LOWER TOWNSHIP — Art Richardson stood with his neck craned up, looking toward the sky Saturday morning, waiting.

    Richardson, who turns 12 Tuesday, was waiting for planes to fly overhead, something he’s been doing every summer for almost half his life.

    “I like the propellers, like the shiny ones,” said Art, of South Harrison Township, Gloucester County, adding that it doesn’t really hurt his neck to keep his eyes on the sky for so long.

    Naval Air Station Wildwood’s Aviation Museum’s largest annual fundraiser, AirFest, was well underway as Art patiently stood near the antique cars outside the hanger-turned-museum. Dozens of people were strolling around or sitting in decommissioned planes and taking pictures next to military boats and plane parts.

    It’s one of the few events in South Jersey that wasn’t canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Families, couples and photographers all milled about the event, taking in the live music and waiting for the planes to start flying.

    Rob Sonsini, of Egg Harbor Township, came to the event with his wife and two kids — a tradition they’ve kept for years.

    “I’m just glad they have something,” he said, noting that there were more attendees last year. “(My kids) get more excited about it every year.”

    Adam Croll, 28, drove from Doylestown, Pennsylvania, an annual trek he’s taken since his grandparents brought him to the museum when he was a boy.

    Now, Croll is a private pilot.

    “When I was a little guy, and I would sit in the cockpit of the helicopters and they had old simulators — it just took away some of the intimidation of flying as this unachievable, unreachable goal,” he said. “But if you can get into something and actually put your hands on something that flies or that flew at one point, you can kind of wrap your brain around it and start to understand a little more.”

    Asked if he wanted to be a pilot one day, soon-to-be 12-year-old Art’s eye’s shone.

    “Maybe,” was all he said, but it was easy to tell he was smiling under his mask.