LONDONDERRY — A local museum working hard to preserve the state's aviation history is flying high this month with a special holiday display.
The Aviation Museum of New Hampshire, 27 Navigator Road in Londonderry, is hosting its "Festival of Planes," offering visitors a chance to see more than 2,500 aviation toys and model aircraft, while enjoying the museum space all decked out for the holidays with festive lights and other decor, including lit trees, a star-filled night sky overhead and even a fireplace in a living room scene.
The "Festival of Planes" features aviation-themed toys, models, puzzles, and other aviation promotional items throughout the 20th century, from the Wright Brothers up to popular science fiction favorites like "Star Wars," "Star Trek" and many others.
Also on display are vintage aircraft piloted by such celebrities as Bugs Bunny, Micky Mouse, Elmo and Barbie.
There is also a "Wall of Planes" featuring several hundred collectible model aircraft from all eras displayed on a large wall inside the museum's Slusser Aviation Learning Center.
The exhibit is made possible through a combination of several collections, as well as items from the museum's own archives, and uses toys and vintage model aircraft to help tell the story of the Granite State's rich flying history.
The primary source for the exhibit is a collection on loan from the Top Fun Aviation Toy Museum. Other contributors to the display include a hand-built model aircraft built by Howard Becker of Goffstown and donated to the museum in 2019.
Mauro Scali of Londondery also donated a collection of Pacific Aircraft collectible models to the museum, also in 2019.
"For more than a century, children have been finding toy planes and model aircraft among their holiday gifts," said Jeff Rapsis, executive director of the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire. "No matter what decade you grew up in, our 'Festival of Planes' exhibit will help you rediscover playthings that first acquainted you with the magic of flight."
Rapsis noted the "Festival of Planes" is just about toys. While walking through the exhibit, visitors will get a history lesson on the past and how toys through the decades were mass-produced and became popular as holiday gifts for children.
Through the years, children often asked Santa to bring a favorite airplane or rocket ship. Children in the early part of the 20th century may have received a replica toy of Charles Lindbergh's "Spirit of St. Louis" or even a famed wartime plane.
"Along the way you can see the presence of World War II, the dawn of the jet age, space race and moon landings," Rapsis said. "It's all there in the toys."
The Aviation Museum of New Hampshire will be open on Saturday, Dec. 26 and throughout the holiday week so families can come see the toys on display and get a history lesson at the same time.
The museum will follow all safety protocols, with capacity limited to 24 people at one time; visitors must also follow a one-way path through the display to help minimize any contact. Masks are also required.
The museum will have the "Festival of Planes" on display through January and the exhibit is included with the museum's regular admission price of $10 per person; $5 for seniors over 65, veterans and students under 12. Museum members and children under 5 are admitted free.
All proceeds go for the continuing support of the museum and its mission to celebrate New Hampshire's contribution to aviation history.
The museum is located on Navigator Road near the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport. For information on museum hours or the "Festival of Planes," call 603-669-4820 or visit aviationmuseumofnh.org or facebook.com/nhahs.