Toys for Tots

Pungo, Virginia Beach | The Military Aviation Museum once again hosted Santa this past Thanksgiving weekend. Flying in on “Reindeer-1” (a 1938 Boeing Stearman N2S-3 Kaydet U.S. Navy Trainer) to a throng of admirers of all ages, Santa made his rounds up and down the aircraft ramp Friday, Nov. 26, through Sunday, Nov. 28, so families could get selfies with the well-known gentleman from the North Pole.

In the U.S. Navy Hangar that normally contains several aircraft known as warbirds, the sounds of model trains of various gauges could be seen and heard, much to the delight of the many visitors who took the time to watch the intricately detailed trains operate. Silently watching from the corners over all of the activities, the museum’s PBY-5A Catalina (a patrol aircraft that was known for its unique ability to take off and land on water) and the NAF N3N-3 CANARY (used primarily on battleships such as the USS Wisconsin in Norfolk and on heavy cruisers) provided a perspective that you will not see at your average shopping mall during the holidays. 

In addition to seeing Santa, visitors were also there to participate in the U.S.M.C. Reserves Toys for Tots gift drive. Whether purchasing novelties at the museum’s gift shop, or arriving on-site with gifts, all were gratefully accepted for distribution to children who might not otherwise have much of anything special this year. 

Virginia Beach Fire Department provided a static display of their response vehicles on the aircraft ramp, allowing anyone who wanted to see and feel what it’s like to sit in one of these fire trucks an opportunity to do so. Vintage motorcycles with passenger sidecars were also on-hand courtesy of the museum’s own Mike Potter and other volunteers, who shared the experience of riding in a motorcycle sidecar. 

Reindeer-1 was put to good use during Santa’s visit, giving visitors an opportunity to check out the uniqueness of open cockpit flight by flying with volunteer pilots Kevin “Sinbad,” “Boom” Powell and Mark “Gooch.”

With all of the activity, those in search of something to eat had a choice of Piggie’s Wurst Nightmare and B-52—two food truck vendors who served up excellent alternatives to leftover Thanksgiving dinner.

Community support is essential to the mission of Toys for Tots, a program started in 1947. If you would like to donate gifts or funds, please visit the Toys for Tots website to locate a campaign near you.

~John Cadell, Boulevard Senior Staff Photographer
Photographs by Art Norfolk and John Cadell

Santa flies in on vintage plane
Toys for Tots: motorcycle sidecar experience