July 16, 2014

Nancy McPherson at Nancy’s Air Field Café's outdoor brick pizza oven.    Jeff Needle photo
Nancy McPherson at Nancy’s Air Field Café’s outdoor brick pizza oven.
Jeff Needle photo

by Ann Needle
Nowadays, the Needles live by twos — two college tuition bills, two busted cars, and two 15-pound cats demanding organic litter. Don’t expect reports from Maui any time soon. Instead, sit back and watch our family find fun close to home.

The latest adventure was a trip to the Rotary Club’s Wings & Wheels event, a weekly happening at Minute Man Air Field in Stow on Thursday evenings through the summer that brings together vintage cars, planes, and very good food.

This past Thursday was a particularly terrific time to visit, as Minute Man Air Field owner Don McPherson held a dedication for Minute Man’s refurbished runway, and marked the airport’s 45th anniversary.

Jointly sponsored by the Rotary Clubs of Nashoba Valley, Acton-Boxborough, and Maynard, the Clubs started Wings & Wheels last summer as a weekly, after-work fundraiser for its very long list of service projects. The beauty of it is that the $5 per person suggested donation is just that, a suggestion. Admission won’t be denied, however, given the hard work of the Rotary Club members and the many projects they support, pitching in the donation is a worthy cause.

The idea is to get owners of vintage and/or unique cars and planes to cruise on in, and let the public explore – all without the TSA seeking anyone’s shoes. Each week spotlights different nations’ cars; Thursday highlighted Japanese and American autos. However, owners of any make are welcome on any week.

There were about 20 cars on display — and even a few motorcycles —  in the back field, offering all sorts of flashbacks. Remember Datsuns? And, am I the only American who didn’t know Great Britain manufactures a car brand called Lotus?

People-watching is de rigueur, and you will likely know someone there that can give you their spin on the local news. This particular evening hosted a list of names many know, from Bob Glorioso to Judy Scraggs and, of course, Nashoba Rotary President Laura Spear and husband Chris. It’s Chris that DJs the three-hour playlist, which offered surf music, The Cars, and everything in between. Watching Stow grand dame Daisy Dearborn chat up her neighbors with Carlos Santana playing in the background was priceless.

Don’t let a hot night put you off from coming out; there’s plenty of shade and seats in the hangar by the entrance. Beside that is the food. The Needles are cutting expenses, but are not stupid. And, it’s all that summery stuff you miss in February.

The cornerstone is brick oven pizza by Nancy’s Air Field Café. Of course, Nancy McPherson was manning that brick oven, moving a flow of constant orders. If you do not know the Café, you should—Nancy changes the menu constantly with whatever is very locally fresh, and with whatever just popped out of her own herb garden at the front of the restaurant.

So, it was no shock that Jeff and I enjoyed a Margherita pizza with basil that actually smelled like it, and fresh mozzarella (no sprinkle stuff) and sauce, and a dough that was delightfully a bit powder-y. The Pepperoni pizza was equally dazzling. The price was in the $9 range for each pizza.

If you want something else, the burgers each run about $10, but are plenty plump so they can be carved between two young ‘uns. I’ve had Nancy’s burgers in the past, and they are well worth the price anyway. There are also hot dogs, popcorn, FRESH lemonade, sodas, beer, and wine—if you’d rather eat dinner at home and snack there, no problem.

State Rep. Kate Hogan presents Don McPherson with a citation lauding Minute Man Air Field’s 45 years of boosting business and community around Stow.  Jeff Needle Photo
State Rep. Kate Hogan presents Don McPherson with a citation lauding Minute Man Air Field’s 45 years of boosting business and community around Stow.
Jeff Needle Photo

The Air Field Don Built

Meanwhile, Nancy’s Cafe was packed with neighbors, friends, and officials for the dedication of the revamped air strip. But, the ceremony was far more about how Minute Man has been a Stow fixture for 45 years.

Tracing Minute Man’s history from when he purchased farmland in 1965 for the airport, then built the airstrip in 1969, McPherson recalled that the first pilot to land there was Stow’s Bruce Macgilvra, who flew in that day in a little yellow plane from Miami (and was at the dedication with wife Betsy).

Through the years there also have been those taking advantage of Minute Man’s small status, McPherson noted. He talked about the period when one pilot’s favorite thing to do on the weekend was to throw toilet paper out of the window when flying, “To see if they could cut it twice.”

Giving a nod to those concerned with Minute Man’s potential effect on the environment and noise levels, McPherson recalled the airfield’s proud designation, in 1972, as a relief field to Logan airport—but others saw it differently. Repeating what MacPherson said was a long-held mantra around Minute Man, he said, “It means we’re eligible for federal funds, not 747s.”

Meanwhile, the McPhersons continue to lend a hand where they can in Stow, and have a highly visible, successful project for giving back in providing land and talent for Wings & Wheels. The area still was hopping near to closing time.

Around this time, Jeff’s eyes drifted to an Indian motorcycle. “THAT’S the one I want,” said the frugal husband. I quipped, “When two and two add up, it’s yours.”
   Wings & Wheels runs on Thursdays through August 28, from 5pm to 8pm.