February 25, 2012 9:14:00 PM
While the sight of 18-wheelers rumbling down Highways 82 or 45 isn't unusual, seldom do the big rigs roll into downtown Columbus. But from Wednesday through Saturday, Feb. 29 to March 3, one uniquely customized semitrailer will be the center of attention at the Hitching Lot Farmers' Market site at Second Avenue and Second Street North.
The boldly-painted, rolling history transport houses the Commemorative Air Force Red Tail Squadron "Rise Above" exhibit -- a tribute to World War II's Tuskegee Airmen, America's first black military pilots and crew.
Presented by the Columbus Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau, the City of Columbus and Columbus Municipal School District, the exhibit will be available for free tours by school classes, Scouts, sports teams and other groups and individuals.
On Friday, March 2, it will be a feature of Catfish in the Alley, a community-wide celebration hosted annually by the Columbus Cultural Heritage Foundation.
"This year, we thought it would be wonderful to coordinate the Red Tail exhibit with Catfish in the Alley," said Nancy Carpenter, executive director of the CVB. "The exhibit promotes triumph over adversity and the successes of African-Americans, which has always been a purpose of us sponsoring Catfish in the Alley."
Festivities March 2 at the Hitching Lot Farmers' Market from 5-8 p.m. include free entertainment by blues artist Big Joe Shelton, a performance by the Columbus Middle School Girl Choir, plus fried catfish, homemade chips and all the trimmings, prepared by Table of Plenty. Cost is $8 per plate.
The Red Tail traveling exhibit's 53-foot trailer features sides that slide out to create a 30-seat climate-controlled theater, where visitors will view an original film, "Rise Above," on a 180-degree screen.
Created by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Adam White, "Rise Above" highlights who the Tuskegee Airmen are and how they overcame numerous obstacles to be allowed to train and fight as the first black U.S. Army Air Corps.
Tuskegee Airman Col. (Ret.) Charles E. MeGee plays himself. "Col. Mac" holds the U.S. Air Force record for most combat missions: 409 over three wars, according to redtail.org/exhibit
"The exhibit is really fascinating," said Carpenter, noting that each child who goes through will receive a "Rise Above" dog tag. The airmen's slogans, such as "Aim High," "Believe in Yourself" and "Be Ready to Go" serve as inspiration for anyone, regardless of age, race or gender, Carpenter emphasized. "It doesn't matter if you're 6 or 60."
For tour information
During the exhibit's stay, certain days and times are set aside for group and school tours.
To schedule a tour, or for more information about the exhibit, or Catfish in the Alley, contact the CVB at 662-329-1191.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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