I have attended WWII weekend every year since 1997. I am not a member of the museum. I have, however, made it a point to speak with Russ Strine and several reenactors about issues that have been washed over and not dealt with on the part of both parties for many years out of my personal interest in keeping the show going as it is. A few things about this:
1. There were no unhappy discussions between MAAM and reenactors. There was a change of re-enactor coordinator due to one resigning, there were posts on websites about the resignation and problems with the show, and some of this got back to the museum.
2. A few organizations had decided the show no longer met their needs and decided not to attend. Some of these groups did it in years past, and one I know for sure did not attend this year (but they also had an internal implosion that might have been more the reason than show issues). Despite this, the re-enactor registration for 2012 was 100 personnel over what it had been in years prior.
3. Russ Strine and Lee Schaeffer (reenactor coordinator) made efforts including asking additional notable leaders within the re-enactor community their opinions and suggestions, providing ice to re-enactor organizations, and staging meetings for several hours with re-enactor leadership in order to resolve issues to make the re-enactor experience smoother during 2012 and in future years.
4. My personal opinion is that the re-enactors allowed the bad feelings to build up without making effective official stink about it, and the museum was too busy running the show to notice the issues- as FDR said about a certain labor confrontation in the 1930's, "A plague on both your houses." I don't say this to put down the museum or the re-enactors in any way- as a leader of a re-enactor organization, warbird owner, re-enactor coordinator, and airshow committee member (not Reading), I know how busy real preparations get and that issues which should be dealt with sometimes get put on the sidelines for what seems more important at the time. That's how things which seem unimportant come to a head and cause massive headaches.
5. Reading, hands-down, is the best WWII show in the United States. I've been to numerous airshows, re-enactments, and living history events. This show, in my humble opinion, has become what Old Rhinebeck used to be- a complete immersion in a unique experience that you can't get anywhere else. I met several people from Germany, New Zealand, and other European countries who were returning to this show after their first time. Knowing the expense they went to, I'd say the 2000 mile trip would be worth it. This is a great show. If it wasn't as good as it is, I wouldn't work my but off every year and put aside valuable family time to make sure I make this show every time I could.
6. While I respect people's opinions on the show that put it in a negative spotlight, I would call your attention to the over 1000 re-enactors who attend this show, the 400 plus volunteers who run the show, and the $1000's of sponsor money that supports the show. While I don't want to attempt to discredit or call into account the negative opinions, my question to those who don't think much of the show is, "Why are all these people supporting it?" It makes me wonder if the public negative opinions have some other agenda. This event is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but the 20,000 public attendees who seem to return year after year tell me something different.
I didn't bring the aircraft to Reading this year, but still attended as a re-enactor, and had another experience which is why I attend every year. Behind our camp sat a Harley Davidson WLA. There was an older gentleman sitting on it while his son shot pictures. I saw the guy's hat had a Purple Heart on it, so went over to talk with him. I introduced myself, told him I had been a medic, and asked him how he got hurt and got his Purple Heart. He said, "Two Purple Hearts. I got hit in France and then went back to my unit (12th Armor Division when I asked him later). I got hit the second time 100 miles from Berlin on one of those." He pointed to the WLA.
June 7,8,9 2013. Don't miss it!
REMEMBER THE SERGEANT PILOTS!