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Feature Article: Reading, PA Mid Atlantic Air Museum’s World War II Weekend

Spent the weekend in Reading, PA at the Mid Atlantic Air Museum’s   World War II weekend, not for the vintage plane rides or military memorabilia show but to dance to the Swing Fever Band on Saturday night, their Glen Miller style band. Everyone was dressed in uniform and/ or 40s dresses, hats and gloves. I wore a vintage blouse, a swing skirt and red red lipstick. Next time, I’ll remember to add short gloves, a hat with a veil and seamed stockings, maybe a flower in my hair. Note to self: Ask mom for the mink shrug, the one which closes around the neck with the mink head biting its tail. How could I have forgotten to at least add a pearl necklace!

For a dance in an airplane hangar, was it ever glamorous.  All the re-enactors still dressed in their uniforms; the Americans, Germans and Italians now dancing all together with their sweethearts under the same roof. As John said, “We’re all friends now.” What fun to swing dance to In the Mood, I’ve Got the World on a String, Moonlight Serenade and Orange Colored Sky. Who didn’t well up as we all danced to “I’ll be seeing you.” When the band announced they were about to end with the traditional “last dance” number, I remarked to John, “Well, I’m sure it won’t be Donna Summer’s Last Dance.” He hates to “do the hustle” so he was happy it was an all swing night --  Lindy, balboa, but no west coast swing numbers or even cha cha. Maybe we did a rhumba, you would have to ask him.

The band started about 730 pm and did 3 sets, with breaks for an Abbott and Costello duo routine and then the bagpipers, ending about 10:30. The breaks were long so we walked around and admired all the vintage outfits, the vintage planes parked around the runway. A few food stands were open but we had already eaten dinner early, in Reading, at the Canal Street Pub & Restaurant, which I found recommended on Yelp.com. It was very good; we ate in the dining room, but they also offered a less expensive menu in the pub.

If we had planned further in advance, we could have pre-ordered the chicken dinner that was served on the picnic tables outside the hangar, but once I saw the set up, dinner out was the way to go.

The glamorous atmosphere of the dancers was offset by the porta potties “ladies room,” an area of 25 or so johns on a muddy lot. That’s as close to camping out as I get and after the dance we headed over to our EconoLodge in Wyomissing, a few miles away. I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t try harder to find the quintessential B&B in the area, but since we booked late, I took what was close and had availability. Good price anyway, at $89 a night, with the aarp/aaa 10% discount.

I was very happy with the dance experience. It was everything I hoped it would be.

From the city/Northern NJ, it is about a two hour drive. On the way down, we stopped at Renningers Antique & Farmer’s Market; it’s just 20 minutes short of Reading in Kutztown. On Sunday, we headed over to Shartlesville and had a Pennsylvania Dutch family style lunch at Haags Hotel, built in 1915 and still run by the sixth generation of the family. We ate ham, pepper cabbage, pierogies, green beans and shoe fly pie. (We’re still debating if shoe fly pie is actually baked or raw molasses, sugar and butter.) What we really wanted was a country breakfast, but that was  over by 11 am at which point lunch started.

After lunch we visited Roadside America, a warehouse sized model railroad village, self billed as “The world’s greatest indoor miniature village,”  a hobby started by a ten year old Laurence Gieringer that got out of control and became a public exhibit in 1935. Now, the  $6 entry fee gets visitors a brochure for a self-guided tour for the walk along the path circling the village. Allow one hour, the guide recommends; at least stay until you see the “night pageant” where they shut the lights out in the building and let the little house lights shine through. Here, an interactive exhibit means you can push a button and make the train move, the organ grinder play and push ten other buttons along the path.

If we weren’t rushing back to the city to watch the Tony Awards that Sunday night at my sister’s viewing party (with bbq dinner) we might have also visited the Toy Robot Museum in Stroudtburg Village; the Leesport Farmer’s Market of food and collectibles. Or gone exploring to find the covered bridges in the area.

What we skipped at the World War II weekend was probably the highlight for hundreds of other visitors: Air shows on Saturday and Sunday with Bomber Aircraft, Fighter Aircraft, Trainer Aircraft, Transport Aircraft, Liaison Aircraft, Civilian Aircraft! Rides on the Yankee Lady;  Autograph sessions with WWII heroes; military vehicle displays; encampments; shopping at the militaria flea market. Well attended by boy scout troops camped out there too.

Mark your calendar now for the Mid Atlantic Air Museum’s 20th annual World War II weekend, June 4, 5 and 6th 2010. I would definitely go back, if we didn’t need to push on to the next WWII re-enactment location.

Information for Followers

Mid Atlantic Air Museum, Reading, PA. 610-372-7333; www.maam.org

Dates for the next World War II weekends: June 4-5-6, 2010; June 3-4-5, 2011; June 1-2-3, 2012

EconoLodge, Wyomissing, PA 610-378-5105

Haag’s Hotel, Shartlesville, PA, 610-488-6692;

Roadside America, Shartlesville, PA, 610-488-6241; www.roadsideamericainc.com