The Manteo Candy Drop tradition lives on

By on December 7, 2023

Dec. 16 event commemorates the Berlin Airlift and Col. Gail Halvorsen

Karin Edmond and Col. Gail Halvorsen on his 100th birthday.

For Karin Edmond, the story of the Berlin Airlift, which brought food and fuel by air to millions of residents of West Berlin during the Soviet blockade following WWII, is a story of survival and freedom.

“From the bottom of my heart, I don’t wish no child to go through what I went through. No child,” says Edmond, who was such a child in West Berlin during the time of the Soviet blockade. She recalled many hungry days without food until planes from the United States and U.K. began dropping supplies for them.

It is with that same spirit of survival that Edmond will carry on her Christmas Candy Drop tradition on Dec. 16, in its second year without the C-54 cargo plane which typically drops the candy for the children as part of the more than two-decades-old tradition at the Dare County Regional Airport.

The Candy Drop is a reenactment of and a tribute to a pilot who went beyond the call of duty during the Berlin Airlift. According to Edmund, when that U.S. Air Force pilot, Col. Gail Halvorsen, saw a group of children splitting one piece of gum into pieces to share amongst themselves, he initiated the candy drop for the children of West Berlin and became known as the “Candy Bomber.”

“If the soldiers wouldn’t have done what they did for us, almost three million people, flying in our food, we wouldn’t be there. There wouldn’t be no Germany today. That would have been all Russia,” says Edmond.

Edmond met Halversen decades later, in 2000, at an airshow, and she convinced him to work with her on a reenactment in Manteo of his candy bombing efforts. When he died February 2022 at 101 years old, Edmond promised him she’d find a way to carry on the event.

“I want to make it nice for the kids,” she says, admitting that the absence of the plane has made it harder to find sponsors than in past years and acknowledging that she is using much of her own money for the candy and supplies. She is also cutting the event back from the typical four days to a one-day celebration. “It hurts that I cannot have the big four-day event, but what can I do? My hands are tied,” she says.

Tim Chopp, the president of the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation and the pilot who typically flies the C-54 fell ill and was hospitalized last year ahead of the candy drop. This year, he is still unable to fly due to health issues and Edmond couldn’t find another pilot in the region that is certified to fly the plane. According to Edmond, even if she found someone now, the paperwork for the permit needs to be filled out 60 days ahead of the event with the Federal Aviation Administration.

But Edmond notes that despite the downsizing, there will be plenty of candy, and prizes to go around, and the spirit and legacy of the candy drop will be in full force.

In lieu of the plane, Edmond has organized for two German brigadiers from Washington, D.C. to drop candy from the second story balcony of the airport building and some of the parachutes will have a white sticker that will get the recipients a prize that will include toys donated from private businesses and various items from coloring books to German flags donated by the German Embassy. Children will also have the opportunity to visit with Santa and receive candy from him, and there will be plenty of cupcakes, desserts, and soda. Edmond invites the public to bring toys to add to the prizes when they come to the event.

Edmond also hints at a larger celebration to come in spring. May 12, 2024, will mark the 75th anniversary of the ending of the Berlin Airlift and she hopes to organize a “big party” and is hopeful that Chopp will be able to fly the plane again.

“I’m just excited that I can pull it off one more time this year,” says Edmond. “I thank the good lord and our sponsors, because without them I could have never pulled off the last twenty-four years. I’m thankful to everyone who has donated even one dollar or ten dollars…I do it all for the children.”


The Candy Bomber Reenactment In Memory of Gail Halversen is December 16 at 11 a.m. at the Dare County Regional Airport, 410 Airport Road, Manteo. Candy secured with a parachute will be dropped from the Manteo Airport Balcony. Catch one of the special parachutes and win a prize. Visit Santa and have some desserts!



Comments

  • Glenn

    Wonderful OBX tradition! Thanks to all the organizers & volunteers.

    Thursday, Dec 7 @ 6:11 pm
  • Holly West

    I got to meet Gail Halvorsen, a couple of years ago. He was a wonderful man with a kind heart, I am glad the tradition lives on. Was there a way to donate to help with the expense? If there was, I wasn’t aware of it. I am sure people would donate if they knew. Probably a lot of people would like to donate next year if the opportunity was there. Maybe a GoFundMe page started early would be a way to get the word out. I hope this can continue for a long time.

    Thursday, Dec 7 @ 11:10 pm