A coordinated flyover of planes by local pilots will take place over Paonia Town Park at 4:15 Friday.
Called "Festival in Flight," the event is being coordinated by Paonia pilots Larry Garrett and Ethel Leslie Garrett. This is the first year the event has been held. "It's new, and it's exciting," said Ethel Garrett.
Since the best angle to view aircraft flying by is at about 30 degrees, the three planes and one helicopter will fly a little off center of the park to give viewers and photographers the best shot possible, said Larry Garrett.
The idea of a fly-by was suggested to the Garretts, and they ran, or perhaps flew, with it. Larry Garrett is a retired U.S. Air Force pilot, commercial pilot, flight instructor, mechanic and aircraft inspector. He also chairs the Delta County Airport Advisory Board that keeps county commissioners informed of its status, and a member of the all-volunteer West Elk Mountain Rescue.
The flyover is not only a visual treat, it's a reminder that Paonia has a "sweet little airport," he said. "It's kind of a hidden asset that's often overlooked because it's not in town."
Garrett moved to Paonia after landing at the airport several years ago and spending an evening in town. The facility is an invaluable community asset, said Garrett. It's invaluable in fighting wildfires, for example the Big Wake Fire that erupted during the July 4, 1994, Cherry Days Parade. Mountain Rescue uses it for training and it and the local EMS have used it in life-saving transport of critically-injured patients.
Many businesses and individuals also use it, and it helps support jobs, said Garrett.
Ethel Garrett. She is also the secretary of the Mountain Harvest Creative board and believes this is a good way to attract visitors both to Paonia, "and enjoy our bounty."
To get more people to come to the festival, the airport will host a fly-in this Saturday and Sunday. "Pilots are always looking for new places to fly to," said Ethel. They sent out a bulletin to the 800 members of the Colorado Pilots Association (ColoradoPilots.org), and have put posters up at airports across the Western Slope and as far away as Napa, Calif.
The pilots flying in are not participating in Friday's flyover, said Garrett.
Unlike past fly-ins to the local airport, during which a big pancake breakfast is served, pilots and passengers can arrange a shuttle into town. Former Paonia mayor and local pilot Neal Schwieterman will help with the shuttle. That way, said Ethel Garrett, they can enjoy the festival, maybe stay overnight, rent a bicycle at The Cirque, take one of the many MHF tours being offered, and enjoy all that the festival and the town have to offer.
The aircraft scheduled for the flyover include:
• a 1974 yellow and blue Bellanca Scout utility airplane used for rescue by West Elk Mountain Rescue;
• a white and blue Cessna 172 considered one of the most popular four-seater airplanes flown;
• a red and white RV4 experimental low-wing plane built by the pilot and considered a popular kit plane; and
• a yellow turbine-engine one-seat helicopter also built by the pilot.
All of the aircraft will fly out of the North Fork Airport where they are based.