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Beachgoers aplenty at Jones Beach air show


JONES BEACH, NY. SATURDAY MAY 28, 2011. The 106th Rescue Wing, New York Air National Guard flying a HC-130P and a HH-60 "Pave Hawk" helicopter as they demonstrate an air to air refuel operation during today's Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra_Villa

With the sun finally out in full force by noon Saturday, little Nicholas Lopez cupped his hands to make tiny binoculars over his eyes and gazed into the sky over Jones Beach.

Nicholas, 4, of Lawrence, Mass., watched raptly as the Iron Eagles pilots performed daring rolls and dips in their Super Christen Eagle I biplanes during the Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach, flying over the crowds on the sands and the boardwalk. The boy then declared his intent to be a pilot someday.

"We're having a great time," said his mother, Loanni Lopez, 29, who brought her family to visit relatives in Copiague for Memorial Day.

Even a half-hour suspension of the air show due to hazy conditions didn't stop the fun.

"We went into the water for a bit" while waiting for the show to resume, Lopez said.

Summer's unofficial start began under gray clouds, with fog and sun battling for supremacy as thousands of people flocked to Long Island beaches. George Gorman, New York State Parks Long Island regional director, said 94,000 people attended the air show.

Partly cloudy skies and highs in the 70s are forecast Sunday -- when the show goes on again from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Memorial Day, is forecast to be hotter, topping out in the 80s, with more sun but a small chance of rain later in the day, the National Weather Service said.

Among the hordes of spectators thronging the beach Saturday were Renee Anderson and her friend, Ernest McCracken, who sat in beach chairs on the boardwalk, soaking up the ambience. The brief pause in the air show didn't bother her.

"For the safety of the airmen, it's understandable," said Anderson, 53, of Medford.

Steve Madonna, an accountant from Plainview, biked from Cedar Creek Park in Seaford to Jones Beach with his daughter Randi, 14, to watch the air show.

The pleasant 40-minute ride was preferable to sitting in traffic on the parkways, he said. "It was a lot more crowded last year," he added.

At Long Beach, fog also greeted morning beachgoers.

Lisa Motta, from Whitestone, was building sand castles with her 11-year-old twins Anthony and Sophia Chianese.

The ocean breeze and "the smell of salt air -- that's how we know it's summer," Anthony said.

Christie Van, 20, and her sister, Stephanie Van, 24, of College Point, spent the foggy morning walking barefoot along Long Beach, wearing their bathing suits under summer dresses.

"The fog was terrible, but it got hot out," Christie Van said.

One pilot who flew in the air show said weather is always a concern.

"It was a little hazy, but sometimes that's the way it is," said Duane Nelson, 76, of Atlanta.

The retired airline pilot, who has been flying since 1957, was at the controls of a World War II B-17 Flying Fortress bomber at the air show.

He keeps flying for the joy of performing.

"The pleasure is in the people who come to see us," Nelson said.

With Yamiche Alcindor

and Aisha Al-Muslim

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