They’re back: the B-25 Mitchell World War II bomber, the UH-1 “Huey” and AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter, the Florida Army National Guard’s CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopter, the Tico Belle C-47 World War II cargo lift, the CJ-6 Nanchang Chinese trainer and many other warbirds.
After a covid-imposed hiatus last year, WNZF News Radio and Flagler County Executive Airport county airport are staging the annual Freedom Fest on Saturday, July 3, the weekend of Independence Day. The free admission, all-day event from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. showcases a variety of historic and modern aircrafts. While guests enjoy the aircrafts in flight or on display, there will be multiple vendors and a stage for musicians. There’ll also be plenty of opportunities for flights.
“I’ve been airport director here for 12 years, and I believe we’ve been doing some type of show for the last, at least for 10 of those years,” says Roy Sieger, director of the county airport. Flagler county also held events called Wings Over Flagler and Rockin’ The Runway at the airport for several years in the past. “We typically did it in November, around Veterans Day,” he said of Freedom Fest, “but I didn’t want to wait a whole two years before we had another event so that’s why we moved it a little bit earlier, and you know, Freedom Fest, what better time to celebrate our freedoms on the Independence Day of our country.” Sieger says, “it’s shaping up to be one of the best shows that we’ve had.”
“Roy is in charge of all the airport aircraft and running the airport,” says David Ayres, the general manager at Flagler Broadcasting/WNZF. He loves special events, produces man of them, and promotes them with the kind of enthusiasm that makes you think it’s a brand new experience every time. “Our job is lining up the entertainment, producing and bringing in the stage, sound and lights. And so we hire the bands, we emcee the event and we produce the show.”
The gates will open to the public at 10 a.m., and as usual the public will get to walk up and down the tarmac (but not on the runways), where all the aircraft will be on display. They can touch, climb in many of them, speak with the pilots to their hearts’ content. Welcoming ceremonies won’t take place until noon. Shortly after that the flight formations begin and guests have the opportunity to see the aircrafts in the air. Eli Mosley country music, Soul Fire Mo-town, and a Bon Jovi concert will play throughout the day, and the night ends with fireworks across the way in Palm Coast’s Central Park, easily visible from the airport.
It’s a bit of an odd set-up. Starting at 5 p.m., when the traditional Central Park Independence Day picnic starts, the two events will be as if competing with each other for crowds, though they could also be complementing each other.
“People just like coming here, they like the hospitality that Roy and the airport and the county show them. We don’t pay for airplanes to come and other air shows pay a lot of money for these guys. They just like to come here. It’s a charity event, the fact that it’s free admission,” says Ayres. “We want it where it’s just a community event where people can bring their kids and not worry about money for the day and just have a great time.”
A couple of tenants on the airport and Sieger’s passion for aviation sparked the beginnings of events like these in Flagler. “I’ve had a passion for aviation my entire life. I was in aviation in the Marine Corps for 20 years. So, you know, we got together and we put something together, and it was pretty small at first, and then we grew from there. And then we also got the radio station involved. It’s just evolved from there and this has become one of the biggest events in Flagler County,” says Sieger, he continues, “we have lots of different aircraft that are going to be there, the ramp is going to be full of cool airplanes that people can come and look at.”
“A lot of the aircraft are static but all during the day, starting around noon, we’re going to have all these different aircraft that will be here that’ll be flying at different times of the day, between noon and five,” says Siegler.
Some of the historic aircrafts at the event include a B-25 bomber used in World War II. The B-25 was, with the B-17 Flying Fortress, among the workhorses of the war and of the devastating and indiscriminate bombings of European and Japanese cities such as the fire bombings of Dresden and Tokyo. Some 10,000 B-25’s were manufactured. It was also casualty-prone (its sister plane, the B-24, was nicknamed the “flying coffin”). Today most are displayed in museums with only about 45 planes still airworthy.
Other planes on display were famously used to train pilots of the United States Army Air Forces during World War II (a sobering fact: some 15,000 airmen died in training). The famous Tico Belle C-47 led the invasion of Normandy, dropping men the 82nd Airbourne Division over St. Mere Eglise.
More modern aircrafts will be shown as well, such as Flagler county’s very own FireFlight and Mosquito Control helicopters, one a life-saver, the other a scratch-saver.
“We have the Florida Army National Guard going to be here with their C-47, which was always a big hit because it’s an aircraft you can actually walk through, you know, kids love it,” says Sieger, who himself speaks with boyish wonder about the planes. “That’s the neat thing I like about this show, you know, why I like to do it. A lot of people don’t know a lot of stuff about aviation, it’s just like a whole different world to people and what I envisioned this event to do is to bring aviation to life to people that aren’t familiar with it, and also and then when parents are bringing their kids, maybe we inspire the next generation of pilots.”
A unique addition to this year’s event is the chance to purchase a ride in the “Huey,” a.k.a a Bell UH-1 Iroquois helicopter, or the Cobra attack helicopter. And if helicopters aren’t your style, guests can buy flight time in a World War II T-6 Texan.
“It’s a non-profit, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican, Democrat, whatever your race or age or whatever color hair you have. We don’t care,” Ayres said. “This is a good time for everybody to just get together and, you know, celebrate the freedom that we have in everyday life here and in this country and in Flagler County and recharge your faith in humanity.”
Just another event supporting the new non patriotic republican party, last time they handed out propaganda to our veterans supporting a treasonous president. Stop these cult like events from poisoning our communities.
Scott Adie says
What you have stated in your first sentence is clearly false, not true. If the Democrats want to buy a booth to support their candidates and causes, they’re free to do so.
Tammy Kook says
Looking forward to the events on Saturday!! Great time to be had by everyone of all ages!!
Scott Adie says
The B-24, referenced as the ‘Flying Coffin’ was the most active bomber of WWII and it was properly called the Liberator. My father was a flight engineer and top turret gunner with Ted’s Traveling Circus in the 93rd Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force. I have, or did at one time have, plenty of pictures of B-24’s that made it back to their bases with all kinds of damage that would have downed lesser aircraft. My father’s top turret was destroyed by enemy flack and when he got back to his base they had to disassemble in .50 Cal machine gun to lift him out of the plane because his hands were frozen to it.
The B-24 flew farther on a single load of fuel and delivered more tonnage of bombs than any other aircraft of WWII. If you’re going to tell a story, please tell it more complete and correctly.