Thursday, February 02, 2006

Long Island . . . A Culture of It's Own

Ask most people about New York and they'll talk about Manhattan - "The Big Apple." With some 40 million visitors a year descending on the city, it's no surprise. The theater district, Central Park - an 843 acre oasis in the middle of the city - surrounded by steel and concrete; world renowned restaurants, museums and top notch hotels attract a steady stream of tourists from all over the world. Visitor spending in 2004 exceeded a staggering 21 billlion dollars. Add to this the entertainment industry with 40,000 location shoots and you have a thriving metropolis, known the world over.

But, and I'm reminded of George M. Cohan's song, "only 45 minutes from Broadway," there exists another culture, one as diverse and stimulating as it's towering sibling across the river. Long Island, home to world class beaches, golf courses, sports arenas and venues to excite the staunchest enthusiast, and a wine country growing in world prominence is also home to an impressive array of museums to excite the mind and memory. One of those is the Cradle of Aviation Museum. Even before Charles Lindbergh taxied down the runway at Roosevelt Field on May 20, 1927, for the flight that was a defining moment in aviation history, Long Island was a natural choice for fledgling aviators. Hempstead Plains as it was then called, with its proximity to the city and flat terrain made an ideal airfield.

Eleven years after Lindbergh's daring flight to Paris, a young man named Douglas Corrigan piloted his rickety nine year old plane to Dublin, Ireland from the same Roosevelt Field, telling one and all he was returning to California, from whence he'd come the week before. That trip earned him a lot of notoriety and the nickname, "wrong way Corrigan."

Long Islanders have had a long time love affair with aviation that continues to this day. A visit to the museum is an adventure. It takes you back to the earliest days of the contemplation of flight, to the jet age and space exploration.

Author: Geri Sonkin


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