Growing COVID-19 list: 2020 Wings & Wheels cancelled

GEORGETOWN – Sadly, the difficult decision that Wings & Wheels organizers have dreaded has been made: the 2020 festival is cancelled.

Logistical challenges, public health concerns and fluctuating uncertainty and restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic factored in cancellation of the Oct. 2-3 event at the Delaware Coastal Airport.

The cancellation was announced Thursday following a meeting of the festival committee.

“We can’t justify it. We have to look at what’s going on with the state of Delaware right now,” said Wings & Wheels committee chairwoman Linda Price. “An event this size we would have to get some approvals for, which are very difficult, especially for the size.”

Also, Ms. Price said there was apprehension from Sussex County, which owns the Delaware Coastal Airport.

“The message from the county was, ‘We’re not inclined to give you an approval to go forward,’” said Ms. Price.

At the request of pilot/aviation historian Larry Kelley, at right, then Ret. Col. (now Brigadier General) Charles McGee, among the last surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen, adds his name to those signatures previously on this bomb casing during the 2019 Wings & Wheels Pathways to Aviation Day. This year’s Wings & Wheels is cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

So, Wings & Wheels 2020 joins a growing cancellation list of large-scale events during the pandemic.

“It just would have been a nightmare for us to even try to do this,” said Ms. Price. “As sad it is – and I know all the other events like Apple Scrapple and Sea Witch were probably going through the same angst that we were going through- – it is just not the right thing to do. So we had to cancel.”

This year was to have been the 13th edition of the popular Sussex County festival, presented by the Greater Georgetown Chamber of Commerce, the Delaware Aviation Museum & the Historical Vintage Car Club of Delaware.

Plans are for a gala return in 2021, on Oct. 1-2.

But this year, Ms. Price said, is just too dangerous.

“I think in this time you are really taking a risk when you’re putting on an event,” said Ms. Price, president of the Greater Georgetown Chamber and Community Outreach Director for the Delaware Aviation Museum. “I don’t want to have any negative publicity for the Chamber or the Museum.”

Typically, Wings & Wheels over the years has drawn thousands of spectators on Wings & Wheels Saturday for a huge car show, a “fly in” of WWII-era and other vintage aircraft, music entertainment, craft/food vendors, WWII encampments and living history re-enactors, pilots’ flour bombing competition and the U.S. Naval Academy Parachute Team.

The Friday night dinner/show in one of the large hangars and Friday morning Pathways to Aviation program for aspiring aviation students are Wings & Wheels staples.

This year’s event was to have welcomed the return of Brigadier General Charles Edward McGee, a retired American fighter pilot and one of the last living members of the Tuskegee Airmen. He was the special guest at Wings & Wheels 2019.

Ms. Price noted that Charlie McGee was scheduled to return, “but at 100 years old, I couldn’t put him in a situation like that.”

Logistical set-up of the festival would present a huge challenge during COVID-19 restrictions. Spectators do not park at the airport but are bused/transported to and from parking areas at Sussex Academy and Sterling Square.

“That makes it even more difficult because we rely on transportation to get everybody to the airport. Making sure that we had proper social distancing, it would take us forever to get people to the airport,” said Ms. Price.

In addition, ROTC cadets, which comprise a huge volunteer arm of the festival, would not be permitted to participate this year during the pandemic. Cadets in the past have handled parking on Saturday of the festival.

“We don’t have enough volunteers to enforce face-masks, social distancing. It would just be a nightmare,” said Ms. Price. “It isn’t fair to put people in that kind of environment. And you just never know. So, you have to err on the side of caution.”