By Corinne Saunders | Outer Banks Voice on November 15, 2022
Manteo resident leads fundraising for this year’s event
The distinct roar of the C-54 engine drew Karin Edmond to the Manteo airport in 1999. About half a century had passed, but she immediately recognized the airplane’s sound, and it flooded her with memories of a difficult childhood that she’d previously never shared with her five children.
Edmond, now 80, was born and raised in Berlin, Germany. She was seven years old in the post-WWII aftermath, when the 1948 Soviet blockade cut off Berlin residents from receiving supplies.
“It was in ’48 one of the coldest winters Germany ever saw, and you had nothing to heat your apartment with,” she recalled. Being cold and hungry was the norm for her family of nine.
She and her six siblings would ask their mother for more food, only to be shown the empty cabinets and told to wait until tomorrow.
“You went to bed hungry, you woke up hungry, you went to school hungry,” she said.
Edmond didn’t want her children to know that she wore the same brown dress with white polka-dots for almost two straight years “because we didn’t have nothing.” She opened up that chapter of her life to them after the airshow that brought the “Spirit of Freedom” C-54 airplane to Manteo, her place of residence since 1986.
At an airshow in 2000, she met the retired U.S. Air Force pilot, Col. Gail Halvorsen, who had become known as the “Candy Bomber” after he began dropping candy to Berlin children during the time of the airlift, which was a joint project of the U.S. and the U.K. to bring food and fuel by air to the more than two million city residents during the blockade.
Edmond convinced Halvorsen that a reenactment of his work as the Candy Bomber was needed.
“Gail did it for us children, and I want to do it for our children here, that they know what it meant and what it was,” she explained.
Halvorsen died this past February at the at age of 101, and “on his deathbed, I promised him I would keep it up as long as I’m alive,” Edmond said.
This year, the event will span three days, with Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation representatives giving a talk on Dec. 16 at the Virginia S. Tillett Community Center, a flyover at the Dare County Regional Airport taking place on Dec. 17, and the Candy Drop itself at the airport slated for Dec. 18.
In a new wrinkle, there are actually two candy drops this year; one from the plane in flight for older children and a second for children five years old and younger from the cockpit window while the plane is stationary.
Edmond, who has kept the event alive by leading the fundraising efforts for more than 20 years, explained the expenses involved in producing the Candy Drop.
To gas up the plane typically costs $3,800, but this year it’s about $7,000 because the airplane gasoline is now up to $7 a gallon, Edmond said. She estimates the event’s total cost around $15,000, given the cupcakes, candy bars, handkerchiefs and gas.
Every Saturday when it’s not raining, Edmond sets up with a friend in front of stores in Manteo’s Chesley Mall from around 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with her crocheted and knitted hats, ponchos, baby blankets and letters explaining the event and requesting support. She has been doing this since August, and she has also mailed 300 of these letters to area businesses.
First Fridays, she sets up in downtown Manteo, and on Nov. 26, she’ll be at the Wanchese Christmas Bazaar. People who donate $20 or more receive a crocheted hat and sponsors of $500 or more receive a ride in the “Spirit of Freedom” after the Candy Drop.
“No donation is too small, as long as it comes from your heart,” she said. “I’m not a president of nothing; I’m only the president of making it happier in Dare County.”
To make a tax-deductible donation, make checks out the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation/Manteo Candy Drop and mail by Dec. 10 to the following address: Candy Bomber 2022, c/o Karin Edmond, P.O. Box 1226, Manteo NC, 27954. For more information about donating, please contact Edmond at 252-473-1795.