Jane Sacher was happy she had her sunglasses during Saturday's Salute to the Troops procession. But she didn't need them for the sun. Instead, they helped hide her teary eyes during the emotional tribute at Steamboat Springs Airport.
"It was very touching to see that American flag come down," she said. "It was the first time I'd ever seen that."
As part of the Wild West Air Fest at the airport, three skydivers with colorful parachutes descended Bob Adams Field to the awe of spectators. One parachute was adorned with a huge American flag that rippled through the wind as it made its way toward the crowds. The event sparked deep emotions for many people, especially while the song "I'm Proud to be an American" echoed in their ears.
The procession included an honor guard and a color guard, both of which honored the men and women who have served and are serving in the military.
"The men and women in our armed services are asked to do more than ever for their country right now," an announcer told the crowd. "We honor their families as well."
Several people got choked up when, during the procession, songs from each military branch were played.
The announcers asked people who had served or know people serving in the military to wave their hats or hands when the songs began.
The Coast Guard, Air Force, Navy, Army and Marine Corps were honored during the procession.
Fry Freiberger, designated as the special officer for the day, told the crowd of more than 500 people to appreciate the military and that, regardless of political beliefs, the men and women of the armed services deserve to be thanked.
"Think of what you're taking for granted today ... the fact that you're even here," he said.
Freiberger, who served in the Navy in the 1950s, was honored to be allowed to address the crowd.
"It was my privilege to be a part of today. In my opinion, we can't thank our troops enough for what they're doing for us," he said. "People have to realize what our military is doing to keep us safe."
Freiberger thought the salute was a powerful way to thank the troops, but he wished more people had come to watch the event.
"If we don't have these events, no one will ever remember what it is that our military does," he said.
The salute was especially poignant for Air Force veterans Mike Cady and Dick Brown, who brought their Jaguars to be a part of the event's car show.
"We liked that very much," Cady said. "We thought it was done very well, and it was very patriotic."
Cady is from Roy, Utah, and Brown is from Estes Park.
The men were pleased to show off their cars and see the antique planes and other events during Saturday's air festival.
"It's nice to see them combine cars and airplanes," Brown said.
Cady's wife, Susan, who works at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, thought the air show was a great way for children to be exposed to airplanes and history.
"I think it's neat the kids got to see the older planes," she said. "It's a learning experience almost better than being in school."
Noah Gibbs agreed.
Gibbs, 11, is from Denver but was happy to visit the air show during a weekend visit with his grandparents.
"I'm an aviation enthusiast," he said. "I think this is great, because there is a lot of different stuff here."
Gibbs said he has been interested in planes for a long time and wants to be a pilot when he grows up.
Noah's mother, Carrie Gibbs, also was impressed with the air show and the Salute to the Troops.
"I am really glad they had the model airplanes this year," she said. "We had to check it out."
Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association executive vice president Sandy Evans Hall said the model airplane demonstrations were one of the main attractions during Saturday's show.
"I think it's fun for the kids and the adults to see the planes," she said. "Those little planes are just as fun to watch as the big jets."
Evans Hall estimated that more than 1,000 people attended the air show, and she expects about the same turnout when the event continues today.
"This is very much a family event. Kids love to see all of this stuff," she said.
The Wild West Air Fest continues at 9 a.m. today at Steamboat Springs Airport.
Admission is $5 for adults and free for children.
--To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234
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