By: Sheryl Sowell | Category: Recreation/Leisure | Issue: August 2010
Oklahomans Wiley Post and Will Rogers will be honored with a fly-in at the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch in Oologah on Sunday, August 15, the 75th anniversary of their fatal Alaskan plane crash.
Will Rogers and Wiley Post are two legendary Oklahomans who helped pioneer the field of aviation. On Sunday, August 15, the 75th anniversary of the day Will Rogers and Wiley Post died in an Alaskan plane crash, pilots from around the country will land in Oologah, OK to honor these men who loved to fly. The annual Will Rogers-Wiley Post Fly-In takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch, on a 2,000-foot grass strip a few feet from the house that Will was born in November 4, 1879. The commemorative day continues with a memorial tribute at 4 p.m. at the Rogers family tomb, located on the grounds of Will Rogers Museum in Claremore.
“The fly-in seems like a strange event to honor two people lost in a plane crash, but it is actually a celebration of their achievements in aviation and the numerous ways they promoted aviation,” says Steve Gragert, executive director of the Will Rogers Museum. “Wiley Post was a phenomenal pilot – he was the first person to fly solo around the world and was a forerunner of the pressure suit. And he did all of this only being able to see out of one eye. Will Rogers tirelessly promoted the advancement of aviation in his columns and talks, and he was dubbed the ‘patron saint of aviation.’”
The annual fly-in is an exciting event that draws people from all walks of life. Anywhere from 60 to 100 pilots will arrive in antique aircraft, vintage warplanes, new small aircraft, helicopters and powered parachute planes to pay tribute. “The fly-in gives pilots the opportunity to showcase their planes and fellowship with other flyers, but also to remember Will Rogers, who offered encouragement to pilots before flying was ‘cool,’” says Pat Reeder, museum public relations. “It also gives people the opportunity to see the planes up close. You can take the kids and check out the cockpits of the planes, and some of the pilots will offer rides. It’s a perfect event for families to enjoy together.”
Admission to the fly-in is free and includes a kids’ area with inflatables, an antique and classic car show, musical entertainment, and tours of the home where Will Rogers was born. “We will also have a Will Rogers interpreter who does trick roping and a Cherokee Indian storyteller,” says Pat.
A boy and his grandfather enjoy getting an up-close look at a plane at last year’s Will Rogers-Wiley Post Fly-In.
Pilot Tim Jarrett is first-year chairman of the fly-in. He is taking over for Dale Frakes, long-time chairman who passed away earlier this year. “Dale was a close friend of my father’s, Lewis Jarrett. My dad had been coming to the fly-in since it started almost 20 years ago. I’ve been a part of it for about four years, and I’m really proud and excited to follow in Dale’s footsteps.” Tim lives in Tulsa and flies a Piper out of Harvey Young Airport.
The 4 p.m. tribute at the museum will include a guest speaker, a fly-over, presentation of colors, and placing a wreath on the Rogers family tomb. “We will also be honoring veterans who served in military aviation, including pilots and other crew members,” adds Pat. For the first time, simultaneous tributes to the two men will be taking place across the country, on the same day and time. In addition to the museum, tributes will occur at the Wiley Post and Will Rogers Memorial in Barrow, Alaska; the Will Rogers Ranch in Pacific Palisades, California; and the Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City.
The Will Rogers-Wiley Post Fly-In and memorial are both free to attend. The fly-in will be at the Birthplace Ranch on the shores of Lake Oologah, located one mile north of Oologah and two miles east of Highway 169 at 9501 E. 380 Rd. The memorial is at the Will Rogers Museum at 1720 W. Will Rogers Blvd. in Claremore. For more information, visit www.willrogers.com or call (918) 341-0719.
Sheryl Sowell was born and raised in Tulsa, OK. She graduated from Will Rogers High School and received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Northeastern State University in 2007. She has worked for Value News as editor, writer and advertising copywriter since 2008. She enjoys meeting and interviewing people for Value News articles, learning about their backgrounds, and helping to promote their businesses and local events. In her free time, she enjoys reading, trying new recipes and crafts from Pinterest, attending concerts and sporting events, and spending time with family and friends. Sheryl lives in Tulsa with her fiancé Paul, their daughter Scarlett, and their two dogs, Gunner and Boo.