About half way between Detroit and Chicago sits the city of Kalamazoo, MI. Originally the home of Gibson guitars and now a major center in the craft beer movement, Kalamazoo seems to be a calm town. Until you walk into a building bordering the airport and stand under a pink Curtis P-40N Warhawk.
The Kalamazoo Air Zoo opened its doors in 1979 thanks to the hard work of WW2 veterans Pete and Suzanne Parish. Sue Parish had been a WASP during the war and when she and her husband began buying and collecting planes, she had her eyes on one in particular. You see, Sue had flown AT-6 Texans during the war, but she always wanted to fly something a little bit sexier. When they got a lead on her heart’s desire they bought it and painted it pink.
The Kalamazoo museum had humble beginnings. When it first opened it only housed a small handful of aircraft. However, within a few years, the Parishes had built a solid reputation and more and more people were willing to loan or donate aircraft and other artifacts to the museum. Today, the collection includes the last SR-71B in existence (which I remember seeing at NASA’s Dryden Flight Test Center years ago), an F/A-18A, a Grumman F6F-5 Hellcat, and a myriad of aircraft from WW1, WW2 and the jet age. Along with the aircraft is a display on the WASPs, and an exhibit on space exploration.
If you’re ever in western Michigan stop by. You will not be disappointed.