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Air show will make second attempt to take off

By Linwood Outlaw III -- loutlaw@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- Tommy Heslep's muscular strength will be put to the test like never before this weekend.

Heslep, 35, hopes to break a world record by holding back two airplanes from taking off for as long as he can during the strongman segment of Warren County's Aviation Day air show on Saturday. That record is currently held by Chad Netherland, who managed to hold back two airplanes for slightly more than one minute -- 1:00.66.

The task requires tremendous strength and endurance. At 5 feet and 10 inches and weighing 175 pounds, Heslep doesn't have the physique of a bodybuilder. Although he admits he will be nervous, Heslep says he is looking forward to the challenge.

Heslep's task may be more difficult than Netherland's. Netherland, a 10-time world record holder in strength and martial arts, pulled off the feat with straps around his arms that were attached to chains behind the airplanes. Heslep, however, will do away with the straps and attempt to hold onto the ropes with his bare hands.

"It's [all about] tendon strength. I mean, it does take a little bit of mental preparation and being positive," Heslep said.

The strongman exhibition will be one of many activities on tap for the air show, which will take place from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday at the Front Royal-Warren County Airport at 229 Stokes Airport Road. If it rains, the event will be moved to Sunday. Last year's much anticipated show was canceled due to poor weather. Event coordinators hope to have better luck this time around.

"We're not going to breathe easy until the sun goes down [on Saturday], then we'll breathe easy," said Glenn L. White, vice chairman of the Warren County Board of Supervisors and entertainment coordinator of the air show.

"But, we feel much more confident. Last year was a very invaluable learning experience. And, of course, the steps that we've taken, like holding a one-day affair with a rain date on Sunday, is one of the fruits of that experience."

Admission to the show will be $5 per person. Children under 5 and seniors ages 65 and older will get in free. Among other activities, the air show will feature a flying circus, car displays, hot air balloon and helicopter rides, food and craft vendors, and flight demonstrations.

Original members of the Tuskegee Airmen, the country's first black military pilots, will also be in attendance. Additionally, the event will honor local hero Arthur "Bunky" Woods, who is paralyzed from the shoulders down and confined to a wheelchair after being shot in the neck by a sniper while directing his platoon in Iraq in August 2006.

"It's basically a patriotic celebration, really," said the air show's director, Reggie Cassagnol.

People interested in volunteering at the air show are asked to call 636-6378 or send an e-mail to depclerk@warrencounty.net. For more information or a schedule of events, call 635-3570 or visit www.warrencountyairevent.com.

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