The Flying Circus Airshow

Image Credit: Thanks to AnandRaoFlickr

Every Fall we celebarate my son and daughter’s birthdays together—and I have a feeling this is gonna be the last year for that tradition. Miles is pushing 7 and Tess just turned 5 and I think the shared birthday may get tougher, but there is a part of me that hopes it doesn’t. We have traditionally done the parties at a local farm with a good cake, some pumpkin picking and a hayride.

Image of Flying Circus plane

Image credit: The Flying Circus Airshow by Andy Rush

This year, however, we changed the plan and decided to have the party in Bealeton, Virginia at some of the most beautiful Americana I have experienced to date, none other than a 1930s era barnstorming outfit known as the The Flying Circus Airshow. They have some awesome WWI and WWII biplanes that do some amazing things. Like this…

Credit: Andy Rush

And this…

Image credit: Andy Rush

And this…

Image Credit: Anand Rao

Image credit: Andy Rush

And the whole scene is remarkably intimate and crowd friendly. They know they are performing and the emcee, along with his sidekick the Black Baron, throw candy to kids, setup up elaborate gags, fill you in on the history of commercial airshows, and set the stage for some serious old school fun. One of the things I really hate about the boxstore approach to entertainment is that it has lost any soul and sense of particularity (not unlike CogDog’s lament about highways recently). What’s more, it has lost all sense of experimentation and adventure—our built environment has become increasingly prefabricated which might help explain my escape to the wilds of the internet. But I digress. What you need are some photos of the fun before I hit you with the money shots of why the Flying Circus Airshow is insanely radical when it comes to entertainment and soul.

The Black Baron ruled with his fake German accent. Image credit: Andy Rush

The awesome emcee. Image credit: Andy Rush

Some classic shenanigans with "members of the crowd" flying airplanes away. Image credit: Andy Rush

Tess and Miles even got presents from the crew given it was their birthday and all.

Tess collecting the booty. Image credit: Anand Rao

Miles hits present pay dirt. Image credit Anand Rao

But what might be the most insane part of the Flying Circus Airshow is the wing walker, Joe Bender, who you better not confuse with a wing rider. A wind rider stays stable on the wing which means they don’t walk around like a wing walker. That’s right, wing walkers actually amble around on the wing of a plane flying over 100 mph. This is nuts. Hundreds of feet above the ground at an airshow with a couple hundred people max, Joe Bender is spending his time walking on wings. He may be my new hero. He works on electrical lines during the week (his day job) and he spends his weekends leisurely walking around biplane wings. That’s what is so awesome about the Flying Circus Airshow—Joe Bender isn’t doing this to get rich, nor are all the airplane owners and operators. This is a group of intensely passionate folks who are handing down a tradition, are keeping alive and idea of the past. This is not about erasing our connection to another moment, it is rather a reinforcement to the moment of the 1920s and 1930s that since the Bioshock Infinite trailer and Boardwalk Empire is starting to seem like a point of connection for us in this moment culturally—and given the financial and spiritual hole gaping at the center of our cultural fabric I am not surprised.

Image credit: Anand Rao

Joe Bender riding the wing. Image credit: Andy Rush

Image credit: Andy Rush

Image credit: Andy Rush

Image credit: Andy Rush

Joe Bender autographing posters. Image credit: Anand Rao

The great Joe Bender! Image credit: Andy Rush

All this to say, this was an amazing birthday thanks to a throwback airshow in the middle of rural Virginia—and of course all the friends and families who were cool enough to come out!

Sebastian, jack and Miles hang out. Image credit: Anand Rao

Anand and Thalia enjoying the gorgeous Fall day. Image credit: Andy Rush

Anto and Tommaso enjoying the light. Image credit: Andy Rush

Happy birthday beautiful. Image credit: Anand Rao

Still searching for Dr. Oblivion. Image credit: Anand Rao

Uncle Andy. Image credit: Anand Rao

And of course some delicious homemade cake to seal the deal.

Anto and Carla made some awesome cakes. Image credit: Anand Rao

Very special thanks to Andy Rush and Anand Rao for documenting this day so exquisitely, nothing better than being friends with a good photographer.

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3 Responses to The Flying Circus Airshow

  1. Steve says:

    Great party. I’m definitely jealous!

  2. Brian says:

    Looks like a wonderful day. A one of kind event with so many special people. Kudos to Andy and Anand for the photos.

  3. Reverend says:

    We have to have an online learning initiative event at this spot, talk about setting the tone for experimentation 🙂

    If you ever make it back to these parts from May through October we’ll have to go, it is an absolute trip on so many levels. I love the performative nature of the whole show, and I think there is much to be learned from these cats.

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