The weekend was darn near about as perfect as one could expect — until the Thunderbirds began their repeated fly-bys at the Little Rock Air Force Base late Sunday afternoon.
Then, little Scott Harris, my 3-year-old (on the high side), began to cry. Actually, shake and cry is more like it, especially when the air show folks tricked all the crowd by flying four Thunderbirds out in front of us in formation while a couple of sneaky bastards came roaring in from behind.
This was little-kid torture and daddy didn’t really know where to go to get away from it all. “Home” was Scott’s feeble suggestion as he clung tightly, burying his head into my shoulder.
After a month of daily record temps, we finally had a football weekend that felt like it. The crisp, cool air was enough to get tailgaters out en masse Saturday well in advance for a Hogs scrimmage against Louisiana-Monroe at War Memorial Stadium. We arrived at 1 p.m., beginning a trek of tailgate stops at the top of the hill by the 15th fairway in a scholarship lot and eventually joining the masses along the wide 18th.
By mid-afternoon, most of the anger had subsided among tailgaters who were greeted at 7 a.m. by a new parking policy, implemented by the stadium. Folks who planned to return to their traditional spots of previous years were ordered (some say more like barked at) to fall in line and park where indicated. For guests of people who had sent out invitations about tailgating spots, this came as a surprise to more than a few partiers.
In some places, though, parking attendants (we’re told they arrived after 7 a.m., stalling the entrance of many tailgaters) were OK with a $20 bribe to allow tailgaters into preferred spots.
Friends had invited me to stop by their tailgate and experience the cooking of their “chef,” Scott Demott, an expert with the grill at least until the drinks fully kicked in late in the night. Along with the usual tailgate ’cue and brats, we were treated to grilled shrimp and what we can only describe as the best salmon ever, placed on a ½-inch cedar plank, seasoned, oiled up and grilled. On tap, another surprise: Diamond Bear brewery’s blond and Octoberfest brews. They are evidence of how far this microbrewery has come. Awards aside, and Diamond Bear has claimed a few prestigious ones lately, this brew surpasses a personal longtime favorite, Kansas City’s Boulevard.
Nine out of 10 fans we encountered found the game boring, despite some impressive runs by the Razorbacks’ freshman backs. Fans were pouring out of the stadium by halftime, likely back to tailgates.
Sunday, it was to the Air Base in Jacksonville for our first experience of its annual air show. Thousands of cars were already lining the tarmac when we arrived (and hundreds more would arrive behind us). LRAFB base personnel know how to get you in and out; the traffic directors at War Memorial Stadium could learn a thing or two.
Every Air Force and Navy plane imaginable was on display, either in the air or parked on the tarmac, including the Stealth fighters that did a stadium flyby Saturday night.
Gary Poe put on an amazing display of aerial acrobatics — how does his plane survive the forces that must want to pull it apart several hundred feet up in the sky?
Later, after a short delay and majestic orchestration on the loudspeakers, came the Thunderbirds as the big finale, with their amazing precision stunts and screaming engines. Car alarms began going off in the parking lot; 3-year-olds’ and parents’ alarms also were set off. It was an unforgettable finish to an unforgettable weekend.