By: Tom Fink | Category: Rogers County | Issue: August 2019
Will Rogers doffs his hat at the East Boston Airport during one of his numerous visits to local airports during his lifetime. Rogers was an early supporter and advocate of the then-budding aviation industry.
Visitors to the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch in Oologah typically see the kinds of things one would expect to see at a ranch – animals, farm equipment, barns, etc., but this August, the historic ranch will boast a more unusual sight: airplanes, and lots of them.
Slated for Saturday, Aug. 10, the Will Rogers/Wiley Post Fly-In will fill the sky over the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch in northeast Oklahoma with planes of all makes and models, as pilots make their way to Oologah for this annual family event.
“For those unfamiliar, this is an annual fly-in at which pilots from throughout the state and some from outside Oklahoma converge on the Birthplace Ranch for a day of aviation appreciation, food and fun,” said Tad Jones, Will Rogers Memorial Museum executive director.
Jones said that the event, which has been held for more than 20 years, previously began at 9 a.m., but due to its popularity, both pilots and members of the public would arrive much earlier, prompting the day’s activities to instead begin at 7:30 a.m.
Will Rogers Memorial Museum executive director Tad Jones shows the new design to be used on commemorative t-shirts for the upcoming Will Rogers/Wiley Post Fly-In in Oologah. Rogers was an early advocate of the aviation industry, and the fly-in pays tribute to his heritage and support of aviation.
“Early arrivals will really be in for a treat as that’s when most of the planes will be arriving,” Jones said, “but there will be activities ongoing throughout the morning and early afternoon.”
In addition to the planes – oftentimes, more than 100 – to fly in over Oologah Lake, the day will include food trucks, classic cars, Cherokee weaving and Cherokee storytelling by Robert Lewis, a remote control plane display presented by the American Turf Flyers, inflatables, face painting, and an appearance by a Will Rogers interpreter.
“As much as there’s going to be for the family members, the pilots always appreciate it when members of the public approach them to get an up-close and personal look at the planes and to talk to them,” he said. “For comfort’s sake, we would encourage people to bring their lawn chairs to sit in and relax as they watch the incoming planes.”
In addition to the fly-in, Jones said the day will include a period of remembrance for those whose lives were lost in a small airplane crash.
“A few years ago, we added a National Day of Remembrance to coincide with the Fly-In,” Jones said. “As Will Rogers was America’s spokesman for the then-fledgling flying industry, and Wiley Post was himself a flying pioneer, the Day of Remembrance is our way of honoring them and honoring anyone who lost their lives in a small airplane crash.”
Events and activities will be ongoing throughout the day, with the National Day of Remembrance ceremony to be broadcast at 10 a.m. on a Facebook livestream.
Among those scheduled to be honored during the National Day of Remembrance are Joel Fream, Bob Hudson, Rick Sandoval, Steven Scott, Adina and Ivan Williams III, Steve Navarre, John Drake, Joe Hartung, David Huffaker, Robert Landry Sr. and four passengers, Randall Lee Harris, Lt. Dale Bryan Shillington, James Carroll Harris, George H. Sanders, Scotty Wilson, Daniel Chester Yeager, John Baxter Carder, Louis Leone, Joseph Provenzano, Richard Shimer, Lonnie Hardin, Bill Watson and Dr. William Kinsinger.
Jones said the fly-in at the Birthplace Ranch is distinct in that the location – overlooking Oologah Lake – lends itself to a view truly unlike anything else to
be experienced in the state.
“There’s nothing like being at a historic location, overlooking a beautiful lake, and seeing dozens if not 100 or more planes, fly in from all directions – it’s an experience not like anything else,” he said. “After the planes land, there’s a closeness to the pilots that the public gets to share by walking right up to them, talking to them and sometimes, the pilots will even let people sit in the planes. It’s really a remarkable thing, and it’s just a fun, relaxing event that the whole family can get something from.”
Attendance is free, although donations are encouraged, and commemorative t-shirts, hats, and other collectibles will be available
This event is sponsored by the Cherokee Nation.
The Will Rogers/Wiley Post Fly-In is 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Birthplace Ranch in Oologah. For more information, contact the Will Rogers Memorial Museum at 918-341-0719, visiting them online on Facebook or at www.willrogers.com. To add a name to the list of those to be honored during the National Day of Remembrance, email eat0@eau0eav0eaw0.
Spectators line up to watch planes arriving at the Will Rogers/Wiley Post Fly-In in Oologah.
In honor of Will Rogers and Wiley Post being early pioneers and supporters of the once-young aviation industry, it’s not uncommon for Will Rogers and Wiley Post interpreters to arrive and be in attendance at the fly-in.