By Amy Kent
Herald Staff Writer
CLINTON — A rare and unique opportunity will present itself to Clinton residents this week when the Barnstormers Extravaganza comes to town Wednesday and Thursday at the Clinton Municipal Airport.
Some people may remember when the American Barnstormers arrived at the airport during the last weekend of August a year ago, but what makes this visit unique is that the Barnstormers typically tour once every two years.
“We enjoyed ourselves so much in Clinton and had so many requests to come back, that we decided to make a special trip just to Clinton with a few of the Barnstormers,” co-owner of Gypsy Air Tours Kerryann DiLoreto said.
DiLoreto also co-owns one of the vintage biplanes with pilot Josh Brownell, who will be giving rides in the open-cockpit planes for $80 per person from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m at the Clinton Municipal Airport. Their 1930 WACO ATO will be one of three open-cockpit biplanes available for rides Wednesday and Thursday.
Airport manager Mike Nass is excited to welcome back the Barnstormers and said that if everything goes well this time around, he, DiLoreto and the other biplane owners will try to organize an annual event for the Clinton area.
“We want to try to make this bigger and bigger each year. Not only promote the Barnstormers and the airplanes, but also the airport itself,” Nass said. “We want to start having more community events out here.”
As for DiLoreto and the other owners, the appeal of Clinton comes from the reaction they see from residents.
Barnstorming originated in the 1920s as a form of entertainment. Pilots would unexpectedly arrive in small, rural farm towns showing off stunt displays and offering rides to the community for 25 cents per person.
The same philosophy applies to the new-age barnstormers. According to DiLoreto, when the American Barnstormers arrived in Clinton last year, the community support invoked the spirit the original barnstormers created.
“The whole idea is to share vintage aviation and open-cockpit flying with the general public,” DiLoreto said. “When you find a community (like Clinton) that really embraces it, its very exciting.”
Because of that, the group will return, possibly annually, offering a unique look at the world of aviation and as DiLoreto says it, an opportunity of a lifetime.
“I really think it’s a chance for people to step back in time and experience the golden age of aviation, the vintage aircraft and the open cockpit of flying,” DiLoreto said. “It’s a chance to experience something very rare.”