Magnificent four-ship! (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

Magnificent four-ship at the Greatest Show on Turf! (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

The Greatest Show on Turf!

Photos and Article by Tom Pawlesh

In the Finger Lakes region of New York sits the small village of Geneseo. When you get there you will find, down an unassuming gravel road, the National Warplane Museum with its grass runway nearby, carved from the corn field which used to dominate the landscape. At this sleepy little airfield, for one weekend every July, the museum holds it’s annual air show. Dubbed The Greatest Show on Turf, it is one of the finest gatherings of warbirds in the country!

P-51D 45-11559 'Mad Max' taxies out on the Geneseo turf for a flight. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

P-51D 45-11559 ‘Mad Max’ taxies out on the Geneseo turf for a flight. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

This year’s event took place over the weekend of July 15th/16th. It is one of my favorite shows of the season, and always has a large variety of warbirds. In addition to the warbirds, the field fills with vintage aircraft, antique cars, and World War II re-enactors. There are plenty of food vendors too. Kids activities included a climbing wall, bounce house, Kiddie Commando Obstacle Course and a Lego play area. There is more than enough offered to entertain the entire family.

The gorgeous 1940 Waco UPF-7 makes a photo-pass. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

The gorgeous 1940 Waco UPF-7 makes a photo-pass. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

John Ricciotti's magnificent 1934 WACO S3HD. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

John Ricciotti’s magnificent 1934 WACO S3HD. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

A pair of WWII re-enactors share a bit of romance in front of the Warhawk... and why not indeed? (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

A pair of WWII re-enactors share a bit of romance in front of the Warhawk… and why not indeed? (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

While most air shows keep the spectators well away from the warbirds, Geneseo is different. The entire airfield is open to spectators, so there is a lot of interaction between the pilots and the crowd. Spectators are allowed to wander into the hangar and watch the performers prepare their aircraft for the day. I saw pilot Quentin Marty putting little kids into the cockpit of his Stearman, complete with leather flying helmet and goggles, allowing parents to photograph their future aviators. When aircraft are required to fly, a dedicated group of volunteers and Civil Air Patrol cadets direct the crowd to a safe distance, but still give spectators close up views as the pilots start up and taxi their aircraft.

Showing how intimate the airshow is, a pair of children in a Radio Flyer watch on in wonder as the TBM and a P-51D warm up before their event. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

Showing how intimate the airshow is, a pair of children in a Radio Flyer watch on in wonder as the TBM and a P-51D warm up before their event. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

The crowd getting an up-close look at some of the warbirds on display. Nothing beats a grass airfield for showing off WWII aircraft! (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

The crowd getting an up-close look at some of the warbirds on display. Nothing beats a grass airfield for showing off WWII aircraft! (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

The City of Monroe, North Carolina's magnificent Curtiss C-46 Commando. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

The City of Monroe, North Carolina’s magnificent Curtiss C-46 Commando. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

The late David Tallichet's Boeing B-17G is on loan to the National Warplane Museum. Tallichet supported the museum over many years, and often brought this aircraft to the show during his lifetime. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

The late David Tallichet’s Boeing B-17G is on loan to the National Warplane Museum. Tallichet supported the museum over many years, and often brought this aircraft to the show during his lifetime. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

The museum's Beech C-45H Expeditor. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

The museum’s Beech C-45H Expeditor. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

P-51D 45-11559 'Mad Max' taxies out on the Geneseo turf for a flight. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

P-51D 45-11559 ‘Mad Max’ taxies out on the Geneseo turf for a flight. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

After the arrival and practice show on Friday, there was a chicken dinner that is open to the public, which gives spectators another opportunity to be part of the show and mingle with the pilots and performers. Saturday night featured a steak dinner followed by a hangar dance with a big band and the B-17 Memphis Belle and P-51 Mustangs surrounding the dance floor. If you needed to brush up on your swing dancing there were even lessons prior to the dance.

The band plays at the hangar dance with the B-17G 'The Movie Memphis Belle' in the background. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

The band plays at the hangar dance with the B-17G ‘The Movie Memphis Belle’ in the background. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

This years show began with a flag drop by the all female Misty Blues Parachute Team and quickly followed with aerobatics by John “Skipper” Hyle in his Harvard Mk.4 and Jacquie B in her Extra 300. Fly-bys included L-birds, then came fast and slow classics, Stearmans, Texan/SNJ/Harvard and transport aircraft.

A Stearman strutting its stuff. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

A Stearman strutting its stuff. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

Jaquie B and her Extra 300. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

Jaquie B and her Extra 300. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

A glorious composition of an aerobatics display above the C-46's engine. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

A glorious composition of an aerobatics display above the C-46’s engine. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

A pair of L-39s go head-to-head. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

A pair of L-39s go head-to-head. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

While the Canadian and American National Anthems were played, a missing man formation comprising two P-51 Mustangs, a P-40 Warhawk and TBM Avenger passed overhead. After the missing man formation, PFC Leslie Parker Cruise was introduced to the crowd. Mr Cruise is believed to be the last surviving soldier to have jumped over Normandy, France from the museum’s Douglas C-47, ‘Whiskey 7’, on D-Day, June 6th, 1944. It was a remarkable connection between the vintage aircraft on display, and the living history they represent.

The National Warplane Museum's D-Day veteran C-47, 'Whiskey-7'. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

The National Warplane Museum’s D-Day veteran C-47, ‘Whiskey-7’. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

A pair of P-51s making a low, formation pass. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

A pair of P-51s making a low, formation pass. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

The show continued with an impressive display by Charlie Lynch in his big TBM Avenger, complete with a watermelon “bomb” drop. Next up was Scott “Scooter” Yoak in his P-51D Quick Silver and Lou Horschel in his P-51D Mad Max. Rob Krieg attacked Geneseo a the replica Japanese Val dive bomber, but was quickly subdued by Thom Richard in the American Airpower Museum’s Curtiss P-40 Warhawk. The Warrior Flight Team performance in their L-39 Albatross jets included mock dogfights, aerobatics and some impressive formation photo passes.

Charlie Lynch (r) in front of his TBM with Doug Marotte, showing off a pair of watermelons which would be used in the watermelon 'bomb' drop flown by Lynch in his TBM. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

Charlie Lynch (r) in front of his TBM with Doug Marotte, showing off a pair of watermelons which would be used in the watermelon ‘bomb’ drop flown by Lynch in his TBM. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

Bombs away... the water melon drop is a regular feature at Geneseo. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

Bombs away… the water melon drop is a regular feature at Geneseo. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

The TBM displays her belly with the bomb bay open to show off the replica torpedo inside. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

The TBM displays her belly with the bomb bay open to show off the replica torpedo inside. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

And now for the Air-to-Air… some beauties were on display this year!

The American Airpower Museum's P-40M 'The Jacky C." flanked by Scott Yoak's P-51D 'Quick Silver'. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

The American Airpower Museum’s P-40M ‘The Jacky C.” flanked by Scott Yoak’s P-51D ‘Quick Silver’. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

The American Airpower Museum's P-40M Warhawk comes in for her closeup! (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

The American Airpower Museum’s P-40M Warhawk comes in for her closeup! (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

With it's aged authentic patina, the glorious TBM looks like it's just flown in from the war in the Pacific. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

With it’s aged authentic patina, the glorious TBM looks like it’s just flown in from the war in the Pacific. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

Quicksilver in closeup with Mad Max and the TBM to the rear. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

Quicksilver in closeup with Mad Max and the TBM to the rear. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

The Jacky C with Mustangs and Avenger to her rear. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

The Jacky C with Mustangs and Avenger to her rear. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

Quick Silver in close formation with Mad Max and the TBM. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

Quick Silver in close formation with Mad Max and the TBM. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

The TBM flanked by a pair of gorgeous Mustangs. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

The TBM flanked by a pair of gorgeous Mustangs. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

Another great air-to-air with the P-51s, P-40 and TBM. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

Another great air-to-air with the P-51s, P-40 and TBM. (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

If you have not attended The Greatest Show on Turf, I highly recommend the trip. If you are interested in photographing warbirds, re-enactors, classic cars and vintage aircraft, this show is a must! I would like to thank all the pilots, but special thanks to the photo plane pilots, Chris Polhemus and Dick Ash, for their help with the air-to-air photography. Also, many thanks to Dawn Schaible, Mike Raftus and all the volunteers for making this year’s show so memorable for me.

Some of the guys who made the air-to-air possible. Thanks so much! (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)

Some of the guys who made the air-to-air possible standing in front of the museum’s C-45 photo-ship. Thanks so much! (Photo by Tom Pawlesh)


WarbirdsNews wishes to thank Tom Pawlesh for his article and marvelous photography! We hope you’ve all enjoyed seeing it too!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*