Why a South Carolina group was drawn to Springfield’s Heritage of Flight Festival

Landon Copeland, 4, smiles as he slaps the hand of his father, Mike, as he passes him on a kiddie ride at the New Carlisle Heritage of Flight Festival Saturday. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
Landon Copeland, 4, smiles as he slaps the hand of his father, Mike, as he passes him on a kiddie ride at the New Carlisle Heritage of Flight Festival Saturday. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

The 14th annual Heritage of Flight Festival is a unique enough event that it drew visitors from as far as South Carolina.

The three-day downtown festival had 47 special visitors from the Clover High School Air Force Junior ROTC unit in Clover, S.C., about 30 minutes outside Charlotte. They visited Friday evening then watched the parade Saturday before departing for a day at Kings Island.

The festival will conclude today with a range of activities from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free.

COMMENTARY: Get ready for a fun-filled weekend at Heritage of Flight Festival

The unit made an eight-hour trip Thursday to visit the National Museum of the United States Air Force as a “curriculum in action” field trip and was looking for other things to do. Heritage of Flight, with its vintage aircraft that participate in its parade, popped up.

“We usually take trips to places like Washington, D.C. or Cape Canaveral but this is something different,” said student Ceasar Kanobdee.

Fellow cadet, Miranda Roelker jumped onstage to dance to the music of classic rock band The Fleez.

ROTC leader Maj. Brian Batson was impressed by the friendly family feel of the event and the reception they enjoyed.

“We’ve been treated like VIPs,” he said. The group gave a loud “thank you, New Carlisle” before departing.

The annual parade late Saturday morning began with a parachute jump by Team Fastrax above Main Street. There were 21 vintage aircraft pulled by classic tractors that just about took up the width of the parade route’s streets.

Local teams, businesses, organizations and community leaders also participated, many tossing enough candy to the crowds to make trick or treat unnecessary as children scrambled to gather the goodies.

Air Force veteran Master Sgt. Antonio Ruiz, a co-commander of the Tecumseh High School Air Force Junior ROTC and science teacher, was the parade Grand Marshal.

Other activities Saturday were the second annual bike show, flight pageant crowning ceremony, wing-eating contest and an attempt to break the world record for the chicken dance.

Heritage of Flight president Mike Lowery said he was grateful for the warm weather and the crowds both days.

Event volunteer Roy Kegley may have been the festival’s most grateful returnee on Saturday.

On Friday evening, Kegley was directing traffic when he motioned for a vehicle coming into the city to pass and was struck by the vehicle’s mirror on his left side.

His lower back was hurting and he suffered road rash and was taken to Miami Valley Hospital. The driver was arrested on suspicion of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.

Although still sore, Kegley, whose business Abe’s Hidden Treasures is sponsoring the bike show, said it wasn’t going to prevent his festival duties.

“I’ve got a bike show to put on, with vendors and three World War II veterans being honored. I can’t disappoint them,” he said.

Today’s highlights will include a new event. A Mile of Food asks participants to bring a canned food item to stretch the mile from Main St. to the Andy Barnhart Memorial Airport.

The items will be donated to the Bethel Churches United Food Pantry.

The day will also include the Jim Slanker Memorial Chair Races and National Kiddie Tractor Pull.

For more information, go to www.heritageofflight.com.