Bluegrass ‘Salute to Vets’ to highlight Wings’ event

Pine Island Express features (l-r) Dave Stype, banjo; Ron Rolison, bass; Louise King, mandolin, and Gail Rolison, guitar.

A crowd numbering in the thousands is expected to enjoy a spectacular pre- Memorial Day event at Wings Over Miami on Saturday, May 26, when bluegrass musical groups join local aviators for a gala “Salute to Veterans.”

Old-time country music that will continue for seven hours with six different groups from the South Florida Bluegrass Association are scheduled to participate at Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport while vintage aircraft fly overhead.

Aircraft flights will begin at 11:30 a.m. until well into the afternoon with pilots available to meet festival attendees, share stories and answer questions.

The South Florida Bluegrass Association is bringing to the Wings stage the New River Boys, Southern Shores, Gray Lily, Alternative Tradition, and Pine Island Express. Each year the association selects a service project and this year they are coming together to start a traditional Bluegrass event in Kendall.

“It’s our biggest event this year,” said Suzette Rice, Wings president. “There is a great need to raise funding to keep the museum open and partnerships such as this help provide much-required operational funding,” she explained.

“If vintage aircraft we house leave our hangar, the general public most likely will rarely or never see those kinds of planes again because such aircraft will disappear into private hangars.

“That would be a sad moment for Miami, home of our nation’s aviation industry, as well as for veterans who would lose a living memorial,” she said. “All veterans and current military with IDs will be our guests May 26 to honor their service.”

Bluegrass music starting at 1 p.m. will carry over into early evening hours to give everyone a chance to enjoy old-time tunes at different hours while watching classic warbirds fly overhead, Rice said, noting lawn chairs are a must since the music stage will be erected on a concrete tarmac surface.

South Florida members of the Antique Automobile Club of America will showcase antique and classic cars while festival vendors include booths displaying nature photography, contemporary jewelry, community organizations, and food.

Thinking of You Services, a group collecting and sending “care” packages to military members overseas, will accept soap, shampoo, personal care items, coffee, tea, nonchocolate candies, fruit bars, trail mix and other non-perishables that can be packed in small boxes. Word puzzle books and activity items also are accepted.

Tickets ($10, ages 13-adult; $5, children ages 5-12) can be purchased at the door or online with online tickets able to be picked up the day of the event at a “Will Call” station, using a secure PayPal link through Wings website for their purchase.

“Wings Over Miami is a unique little museum (unlike anything else in South Florida) because our exhibits fly,” Rice said. “Museum visitors get up-close looks at aircraft most people only see on television or in the movies.”

Typical of restored aircraft is the latest addition to Wings — a “Night Rider” LTAoriginally delivered to the U.S. Navy and brought back to the U.S. from Venezuela in 1992 by Walt Orth, a pilot and museum founder.

He later gathered together a restoration team that included research and study by Vinny Tirado and crew chief Harry Adams, all working to restore the vintage aircraft to flying condition while compiling a detailed archival record of its service.

“Wings brings to the community and tourists a friendly peek into years of aviation gone by, and stands as a true memorial to the great roles that military aviation and our veterans have played in former wartime America,” Rice said.

She urged veterans to “contact the museum and become a part of the museum’s volunteer team to augment the story of local aviation and honor those who flew in the service of their country.”

Now in its 10th year of operation, the museum at 14710 SW 128 St., inside Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport, is regularly open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sundays, noon to 5 p.m.

For more details about Wings, visit In case of inclement weather, postponement notices will appear on the website.

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