The Red Tails have arrived at the Homestead National Monument of America, and they brought a piece of history with them.
The Tuskegee Airmen, known as “Red Tails” because of the bright color of their planes, will be the topic of an exhibit this weekend, Aug. 30-Sept. 1, as part of the monument’s Labor Day Extravaganza.
This weekend will feature the Rise Above traveling exhibit, a semi-trailer that opens into a 30-seat theater and educational opportunity for visitors.
A film, titled “Rise Above: Triumph Over Adversity,” will play every 30 minutes from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.
The exhibit arrived at the monument Tuesday evening and held a preview for Friends of Homestead on Wednesday night. School classes visited the monument to view the film on Thursday and will also do so Friday.
The film tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first black pilots in American military history and their support units who were trained in Tuskegee, Ala. The 992 Airmen fought in World War II, and some later fought in the Korean and Vietnam wars.
"They're not teaching it (in schools), so the kids get a history lesson and inspiration all at the same time," Terry Hollis said.
Hollis and his wife, Jeanette, travel with the trailer 42 weeks out of the year. They go home to Columbus, Miss., over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, but spend the rest of their time on the road, pulling the exhibit with their own truck. They begin traveling again in February.
"February is Black History Month, so everybody wants you there that month," Terry said.
The exhibit travels to air shows where 600-800 people per day line up to watch the film. Terry said a 15-minute version of the film is shown at those events to get more people through the exhibit. This weekend, though, the 30-minute version will be shown to make it more educational.
"With the school groups, we definitely show the 30-minute version. It's got the dates and times when everything started with the war," he said.
On Wednesday night, close to 50 people came to the monument to see the show. Jeanette Hollis said that was a good indicator of those to come this weekend.
"I think we'll be busy. We're looking forward to having the school kids out Thursday and Friday. Of course, we'll tell all those kids to bring their parents back Saturday and Sunday," she said.
The Rise Above exhibit is owned and operated by the Commemorative Air Force Red Tail Squadron out of Minnesota. It began travelling in July 2011. Bradford Lang, the son of a Tuskegee Airman, leads the squadron and flies its P-51C Mustang aircraft that sometimes travels to air shows with the Rise Above exhibit. Lang also is a Delta Airlines captain.
Terry said only six of those planes exist throughout the world, and four of them are in the United States. The plane files everywhere, as it is too large to fit on a trailer, so it can only go to cities with a runway for it to land next to the Rise Above trailer.
The free exhibit is funded by grants, donations and sponsors. It will be one of many educational and cultural opportunities at the Monument over Labor Day weekend.
Other highlights include a Native American folk music concert by Michael Murphy at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 30, a Toasted Ponies Bluegrass Band concert at 2 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 1, and an Old-Fashioned Spelling Bee at 10 a.m. on Sept. 1 at the Freeman School building in the park.
Living history demonstrations and hands-on activities will happen from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Activities include making butter, corn husk dolls and button toys, washing clothes pioneer style, dipping candles, painting, quilting and shucking corn.
Flute artist Michael Murphy will hold a flute-decorating workshop following his concert on Aug. 30.
The activities are free to the public because of funding from the Nebraska Arts Council, the Nebraska Cultural Endowment and the Hevelone Foundation.