LAKEHURST – It took more than 20 minutes to go the last mile to get into Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (MDL) Sunday morning – watching the same traffic light turn red three times in a row – because of how many carloads of people were going to see the Power in the Pines show. After waiting five years, waiting even longer due to traffic built up the anticipation.
Saturday’s weather was rainy, which made even more people pile into the event on Sunday. Even though the base opened its gates for the event at 9 a.m., the enthusiastic visitors were already preparing to swarm each one of the three entrances in order to get inside quicker.
Hundreds upon hundreds were gathered and impatiently waiting for the already massive lines in front of the security check-up to clear so they could finally go in, and again enjoy an event that they have been missing for the past five years to return.
Finally, after five years and close to an hour in line, the Power in the Pines event was back. The reasons for the long hiatus were the COVID-19 pandemic, and two very important operations that the MDL base was in use for: “Allies Refuge” and “Allies Welcome.” During the time those operations were active, the base served as a safe haven for the Afghan evacuees.
This year the event carried the slogan “On The Wings of Community,” and according to U.S. Air Force Major Virginia Kelaher, it’s an attempt to bring the joint base closer to the towns surrounding it.
“This is a chance for the community to see what we actually do every day,” said Kelaher. “They hear our planes and see our vehicles, but do not often get to interact with us.”
And they definitely got to interact with military personnel – in addition to seeing and hearing the vehicles.
The main area of the event was filled with different military displays, from massive aircrafts like the C130T Hercules – which carries cargo – to WWII vehicles and props, to the first-time addition of a full STEM display.
Once 11:30 a.m. came around, the whole base went into silence. A military orchestra began their set. The National Anthem rang in the air, for a moment as if everyone around the orchestra froze in time.
Moments later the main event began, a F-16 Viper Demo Team opened the first act of the show.
Followed by them were the U.S. Army Golden Knights. The demonstration parachute team also was Kelaher’s favorite part of the event. The reason for that was because she was a part of the team 10 years ago during an air show.
Then one o’clock hit, and a short quick aircraft began ascending the sky until it suddenly disappeared. Moments later a loud bang shook everyone and the same exact aircraft tore through the air.
The plane in question is an F-15C from the Massachusetts Air National Guard, and it created an adrenaline-pumping and ear drums-popping show for all the attendants. As the public announcer said, “The pilot of the plane set the bar high and kept it high.”
And while the lines for the main entrance often took hours to clear out, the smiles and amazed looks from the public showed that it was worth the wait.