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Lt. Col. John Caldwell, commander of the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, signs a toy F-16 Fighting Falcon after the Thunderbirds performance at the Wings Over Wayne Air Show, April 28, 2019, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. After the Thunderbirds completed their performance attendees were able to meet the team, as well as receive autographs and take photos together. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Derry)

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C --

The 2019 Wings Over Wayne Air and Space Expo attracted both first-time and returning visitors from around the world.

This year's events kicked-off on April 25, 2019 with the arrival of the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron "Thunderbirds" who flew over downtown Goldsboro and Wayne County.

Practice day events included an exclusive meet-and-greet event with air show performers for members in the Department of Defense Exceptional Family Members Program. Friday's practice day concluded with a party for all DoD families and an aerial night show.

On April 27 and 28, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base opened its gates to the public, attracting tens of thousands of people. The air show featured aerial performances, aircraft static displays and various vendor booths.

Aerial performances, headlined by "The Thunderbirds", included the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Parachute Demonstration Team "Black Daggers", C-17 Globemaster III, "Tora! Tora! Tora!" and other aerial acts.

Airmen demonstrated their skills through performances including the Explosive Ordnance Disposal flight, Military Working Dogs and the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard.

Spectators also had the opportunity to see static displays of aircraft up close.

"When I was young, I used to watch the planes fly all the time from my dad's farm but I was never able to get close to them," said Gene Simpson, a first-time WOW attendee.

Simpson was joined by his five-year-old son, Patrick Simpson, who stated he liked the C-17's aerial performance but his favorite was the Thunderbirds "because they flew upside down a lot. I didn't know (they) could do that," said Patrick.

Gene added, he hopes one day his son Patrick will have the opportunity to take his own children to a WOW Air Show so Patrick can experience the same pride Gene did at this year's show.

"Opening our doors and giving our community a look behind the scenes was the least we could do for all of the support this community gives our Airmen and their families," said Capt. Matthew Fair, WOW air show assistant director. "This air show was a resounding success and we hope our next one will be even better.”

The next WOW air show is scheduled for 2021.

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