By Crystal Harrell
The Palm Springs Air Museum’s 23rd Annual Memorial Day Weekend Air Fair & Flower Drop will take place on May 30 and 31, providing spectacular aircraft views and a chance to commemorate those who lost their lives while serving their country.
Each day, 3,000 flowers (2,000 white and 1,000 red carnations) will be dropped from a helicopter in a dazzling display, honoring and memorializing all veterans who lost their lives defending the U.S. The white carnations are in honor of those who fought in World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. The red carnations are in honor of those who died in more recent conflicts, including the Persian Gulf, Desert Storm, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
“This flower drop is unique. Before the dropping of the flowers onto the tarmac behind the museum, there is a ceremony commemorating Memorial Day, and four vintage aircraft take off in formation and do two flyovers. At the end of the third flyover, one of the planes leaves the formation, signifying the loss of life and the flowers are dropped. This formation is called ‘Missing Man Formation’. This is something rare and emotionally moving that has to be experienced. Words cannot and do not do it justice,” explained Ann Greer, PR Liaison of the Palm Springs Air Museum.
The helicopters flying together will represent and honor First Responders and those lost to COVID-19. One helicopter will be a First Responder Life Flight Helicopter and one will be a Military Helicopter.
The ceremony involves Color Guard, the Palm Springs Air Museum Pipe Band, and representatives of local Gold Star Families. The Gold Star Families are the families of the men featured on the banners in the Air Museum parking lot, and on banners throughout the Coachella Valley. These are the families of the 28 local men who lost their lives while serving in the military, going all the way back to World War I. The representatives from these families will be presented with roses that they put in a basket. The basket is then solemnly walked by a staff person to where the carnations are, and the roses get dropped with the carnations from the aircraft.
Other festivities throughout the day include music from Heatwave Jazz Band and the Palm Springs Air Museum Pipe Band; food for sale from Carl’s Jr., Best Cookies Palm Springs, Nick’s Pizza, and Victory Canteen; and kids’ activities including Harpo the Clown. There will be flight exhibitions throughout both days as well, and guests can even pay to ride in some of the aircraft.
On Monday only, an unveiling and dedication of a set of four Tuskegee airmen statues in the front of the Air Museum will take place at 10 a.m. Special VIP guests will attend this unveiling in recognition of the all-black fighter pilot squadron.
The Palm Springs Air Museum contains over 71 vintage airframes from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War contained in 86,000 square feet of open hangars and on the tarmac. Additional displays and memorabilia are located throughout the hangar facilities.
The Palm Springs Air Museum was totally closed from March 18 through June 1, 2020. The Air Museum opened from June until the second lockdown in the fall of 2020, operating as an outdoor museum. The Museum even started doing weekly Youtube videos called ‘Bringing the Museum to You’ until it was able to reopen again on December 26.
Several sanitation measures will be observed at the Memorial Day Weekend event, such as requiring all guests to wear masks and leaving all hangar doors open. There is a limited capacity to facilitate social distancing, which is why the event is being held two days in a row instead of only one. Hand sanitizers will be located throughout the Museum in each hangar and advance ticket purchases can limit attendance per COVID-19 guidelines.
“The Palm Springs Air Museum is a flying museum as well as a history museum. Not all aviation museums are. We hold this ceremony because we believe it is an excellent way to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our liberties and way of life. What better way to educate the public and honor veterans and civilians alike,” said Greer.
This year offers free admission for all children 12 and under with paid adult admission. Regular
admission ranges from 17.50 to 19.50 per person. All tickets must be purchased in advance online. Daily attendance is limited, and all attendees, including Air Museum members, must purchase tickets online or register in advance at PalmSpringsAirMuseum.org.