By: Pat Reeder | Category: Recreation/Leisure | Issue: August 2012
Children can enjoy inflatable fun at the annual fly-in.
Will Rogers was an actor, writer, trick roper and rancher. At the time of his death, he was all these and undoubtedly the world’s most avid aviation booster. Aviation in the heartland will be celebrated Sunday, August 12, when planes land on a 2,000-foot grass strip adjacent to the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch house on Oologah Lake.
The annual Will Rogers & Wiley Post Fly-In is a family event where visitors can see vintage aircraft, World War I fighters, experimentals, biplanes, helicopters and ultralights, and talk with the pilots who fly them.
Activities from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. are dotted with live music, Cherokee storytelling under the shade trees, an antique and classic car show, and inflatable amusements for the kids. Food concessions will be available.
Sponsors for the event are the Will Rogers Memorial Museum, Will Rogers Memorial Foundation, Cherokee Nation Businesses and Will Rogers Downs.
Bring your own lawn chair and watch planes as they land, and listen as Ross Adkins and Tony Isler describe the planes and announce their pilots as they land. Antique and classic cars will be showing on the lawn. Vistors have an opportunity to vote for the “People’s Choice” plane and car. The winner will receive a Will Rogers trophy.
The log-walled room where Will was born has been preserved as it was when he was born November 4, 1879, with the original walls and period furniture. Learn about the life, wisdom and humor of Will Rogers, see the longhorn cattle roam, chickens scratch, and goats and burros beg for attention at the living history ranch.
The house at 9501 E. 380 Road (two miles east of Highway 169 on 380 Road) is open for tours 365 days a year. Doris “Coke” Lane Meyer, great-niece of Will Rogers, will be on hand to sell and autograph her new book, “I Called Him Uncle Will.”
Last year more than 90 planes landed, highlighted by the just completed rebuild of a 1930 Spartan Aircraft, owned by Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology of Tulsa, one of the Funk planes manufactured in Coffeyville, Kansas, and a group of Tulsa pilots from Jones Riverside Airport, who flew formation in their Stearman planes.
Pilots come from as far away as Texas, Kansas, Arkansas and western Oklahoma and as near as Chisum Field about five miles away, between Claremore and Oologah.
For information about the event call (918) 341-0719 or visit the website, www.willrogers.com. For pilots, the airport identifier is OK37. Admission is free but donations are accepted.
Will and Wiley died August 15, 1935 in an Alaskan plane crash. In the last 20-plus years, pilots have been coming to the Birthplace Ranch airstrip to not only pay tribute to them, but to continue the celebration of the appreciation they shared for flying. Although Will never piloted a plane, he flew at every opportunity. He and Wiley were on a fact-finding trip over Alaska when the plane crashed into icy water near Barrow.
Will’s body was brought back to his hometown in 1944, where he is entombed with his family on the grounds of the Will Rogers Memorial Museum. A brief wreath-laying ceremony at the tomb, following a fly-over, will be at 9 a.m., Wednesday, August 15, on the 77th anniversary of the crash.
The Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore and the Birthplace Ranch and Park near Oologah are open 365 days a year from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.