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Nikki Statler, Director of Marketing
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Submitted by Maria Newhouse
On August 4, 2019 two young aviators flew through the cloud tunnel at the Air Zoo and captured the hearts of staff and guests alike for their vintage pilot and Woman Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) outfits. Hailing from Oklahoma, Emberly (5) and Colton (almost 2) are on a mission this summer to see as many World War II bombers and events as they can within driving distance of their home – bringing their parents along for the ride.
Their summer journey began in September 2018 when Emberly met FIFI, a B-29 bomber. No stranger to airplanes, as the family lives on a small grass airport that their grandfather flies out of regularly, FIFI captured Emberly’s heart. Recognizing her daughter’s interest, mom Tiffany pulled out a notebook she had from high school all about the WASPs and began showing her photos and telling her stories.
Without many World War II events in their area, their first stop this summer was at a World War II expo in Texas. “I’m a huge picture person,” admits Tiffany, so they went all out on the costumes for the kids to wear to the expo. For Tiffany, this began with a lot of research to ensure that the costumes were as accurate as possible.
“All of Colton’s captain uniform patches and brass, except hat pin, are all authentic,” she shares, “but we couldn’t find anything WASP related that wasn’t a reproduction.” With her mom Lisa doing most of the sewing, they put together the outfits for Emberly and Colton to wear. Her mom “used a pj pattern” for the actual jackets and Tiffany designed the hats using vintage pictures to guide her design work.
Their first event was a smashing success! Emberly, who wants to be a pilot when she grows up, “wowed the older gentlemen with her actual knowledge of the planes,” Tiffany acknowledged. To help expand her knowledge base, Emberly’s family began looking for a WASP that she could write to – and were successful! Between asking her WASP friend questions and looking up everything she can find about the WASPs, Emberly is becoming quite the expert on the women who served in World War II.
When Tiffany and her parents had the unexpected opportunity to bring the kids to Thunder Over Michigan (dad, a firefighter, was unable to join them due to work), they made it their mission to stop at as many aerospace museums as they could along the way – including the Air Zoo. They were captivated by the idea of the Pink P-40 hanging in the lobby, and aircraft that was owned by Air Zoo co-founder Sue Parish – who served as a WASP in World War II. During their visit to the Air Zoo, Emberly was even able to find her WASP friend listed in the Air Zoo’s WASP exhibit!
While little brother Colton may someday follow in his sister’s aviation-loving footstep, right now he’s learning to tolerate wearing a hat and practicing his salute. “Right now,” shares Tiffany, “he just really likes “broom, brooms” as he calls airplanes.” We think that’s an excellent place to start and cannot wait to see where their adventures take them!