Red Hook takes to the skies!

“Totally awesome! Unbelievable!”

Eyes heavenward, hearts in mouths, onlookers were entranced as the sleek red-and-white Stearman Bull biplane roared past upside down, then rolled upright and climbed away into the blue over the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome.

From far-off China and from neighboring Norton Road they’d come, some 800-strong to marvel at the Aerodrome’s free “open house” on July 1 honoring Red Hook’s Bicentennial. “It is a privilege for us to help celebrate Red Hook’s 200th birthday,” said Mike DiGiacomio, Rhinebeck Aerodrome Museum president, in his welcome remarks.

Despite the heat and some nasty circling thunderheads, it was a perfect day of thrilling maneuver, “living” aviation history and priceless family entertainment.

As they have for more than four decades, spectators alternately booed the evil “Red Baron of Rhinebeck” as he menaced Trudy True Love and lustily cheered her hero, Sir Percy Goodfellow, as they tussled for her hand in the Aerodrome’s signature, antic-filled two-hour show of old-time aviation derring-do.

As the Baron’s blood-red Dr-1 Fokker tri-plane went head-to-head with Pierre Loupe de Loupe’s French Spad fighter in a dramatic dog fight above, Jim Hare, the aerodrome’s incomparable announcer and master-of-ceremonies for more than 20 years, knit together characters, plot lines, planes, bombs, oompah bands, racing ancient cars and fire engine, and more in a seamless mix of good-humored slapstick and insightful early-air education.

Hare is part of a core of volunteer expert mechanics, seasoned pilots, encyclopedic early-flight buffs, would-be barnstormers, hammy amateurs, world-class aviation historians, museum enthusiasts, and others who maintain and operate the quaintly authentic grass airfield in Red Hook.

Founded by early aviation enthusiast Cole Palen in 1959, the aerodrome has one of the world’s largest collections of early airplanes both on display and in airworthy condition. For more than 50 years, it has been entertaining – and educating – people from all over the world about how things were in the earliest days of flight, using examples of static and flying aircraft from 1900 through 1940.

Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome Museum has four hangars with more than 60 antique airplanes, automobiles and related artifacts to browse through from 10am to 5pm daily. Air shows are held Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm. Biplane rides are also available.

Caption: With Clay Hammond at the stick of the 1929 New Standard D-25, (from left) Village of Red Hook Mayor Ed Blundell and Town of Red Hook Supervisor Sue Crane joined Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro and Village of Tivoli Mayor Bryan Cranna for a “barnstorming” ride as part of the Red Hook Bicentennial “open house” at the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome.

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