Cole Brothers Airshow


In 1946 a World War II veteran pilot leased the Kewanee Airport south of town that had been closed for 9 years and held a grand re-opening by putting on an aerobatic air show.

Duane Cole was the air corps veteran and he enlisted the help of three brothers, Arnold, Lester and Marion. The day-long show was immensely popular with the locals and the brothers decided to take their show on the road.

Thus was born the Cole Brothers Air Show that went on to achieve national acclaim for the next 17 years. The star of the show was youngest brother Marion who in 1952 won the World Aerobatic Championship. Duane was also world-class, winning two national championships in the early 1960s.

A special feature of the show was “wing-riding” as seen in the mural. Kewanee’s Byron Bryner was the first to have the “honor” of risking life and limb on the wing of a Cole Brothers plane.

In the group picture, Byron is in the front row right end. Standing are the Cole brothers, Duane, Marion, Arnold and Lester.

The Cole Brothers show came to an abrupt end in 1963 when Duane’s son Rolly, then a featured performer, was killed when his plane crashed while he was practicing for a show.

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