Sunday, September 21, 2008

Section 3 - "The family" of the Reno Air Races

If you wear an orange shirt at the Reno Air Races, you are part of "the family." This is Bob, he is part of the original thirteen members of Section 3. He travels to Reno every year from Boise, ID. During race week his favorite color is orange because that is the color of all the hats, t-shirts, bandannas and banners of the most lively section of fans at the Reno National Championship Air Races. If I may take a liberty here - he is the defacto leader of Section 3.

Bob (pictured left with his wife Barbara) has been coming to the races for 30 years now. He believes Section 3 started in 1983. It all started in fun. Jack, another founding member, would holler at the ladies and jest with other fans in the stands. That is how it all started. Another fan from California brought the numbered placards from a Safeway store and they became the rating cards that are held up after a performance or race. The next year, Bob brought thirteen orange shirts to Reno. The beginning. Bob is an old national guardsman. He's been in for 41 years. He doesn't know all the nuts and bolts, or even the names of ALL the airplanes. "I'm just a fan and I'm here for the the fun and excitement."

About this time, the announcer said something about Section 3 and the group around us erupts into cheering and clapping. This happens frequently while I'm sitting with Bob and listening to stories of races gone by.

The tradition at Reno is for the old restored fire truck to bring the winning race team of a heat down the flight line. Bob has the crew in Section 3 wait for his queue before they start cheering. This year, as a gag, Bob will sometimes let the fire truck pass by a little ways before giving the the signal to cheer. It is just another way of extending the fun.

Another founding member is "Scoop". He's the only one that reads the newspaper each morning. Thus, when someone asks about the previous days activities, Scoop lets everyone in on what the press has published.

Section 3 is a fixture now. Today, even marriage proposals are done in front of the section. Many, if not all, of the planes "bow" in front of Section 3. I listened to a few stories while there...One year, a biplane or formula racer was caught in a "twister" or dust devil at the end of the pylons. The group tied the orange shirts together and collected about $700 or $800 from their section for the team. With this success, the effort continued through the rest of the stands. Approximately, eleven thousand dollars was collected. Then they challenged a casino to match it. Section 3 was invited to the banquet that night where they signed an orange shirt for the team. When they were done the shirt was black. When asked, they thought the pilot was Erroll Roberson, and this would have been '86 or so (here's a related story I found on AAFO). They said it was freezing that year.

As I wrapped up the interview with Bob, Steve Senegal, winner of the Formula One Class - Gold, stopped in front of the section, turned off his plane, stepped out of the cockpit, peeled off the top of his flight suit and revealed an orange Section 3 t-shirt. The fans went crazy, and Steve ran up into the stands and handed out orange Section 3 bandannas. There was plenty of backslapping. Later that day, Jon Sharp came into the stands and enjoyed his victory of the Super Sports Class with the fans. And in the slideshow below, you'll even see a picture Maj. Moga's commander from the F-22 wing spending some time with the Section 3 crowd signing t-shirts!

Becoming a part of Section 3 is easy. Take a seat in the section. Buy your orange t-shirt, and just become a part of the festivities that take place during the day. Keep listening too - you are bound to catch some history of races gone by.

Note: This post is open for comments. Not everything is this post is verified, so those who know better...please share!

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