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Aircraft festival lands in Gainesville
46th annual Cracker Fly-In touches down July 11
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E.J. and Kayla Radich, 5 and 7, work the controls of the local Civil Air Patrol Cessna 172 at last year’s annual Cracker Fly-In at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport in Gainesville.

46th annual Cracker Fly-In

When: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 11

Where: Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport, 1137 Aviation Way, Gainesville

Cost: $5, children younger than 12 free

More info: www.crackerflyin.com/home.html or 770-540-9614

An array of aircraft from small Cessnas to biplanes as well as a Lockheed Electra A-12, made famous in films about Amelia Earhart, will touch down for the annual Cracker Fly-In next weekend in Gainesville.

For 46 years, the Gainesville chapter of the Experimental Aviation Association has brought a festival of flight to town. Similar to a car show, except with airplanes, the event will feature 200 aircraft at the show beginning at 7 a.m. Saturday, July 11, at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport.

“We expect about 3,000 people to come out again this year,” event organizer Winn Fletcher said. “It’s a great opportunity for the public to get out to the airport and get up close and personal with the airplanes and pilots.”

Tickets are $5 at 1137 Aviation Way in Gainesville. Children younger than 12 may enter for free.

Pilots landing their aircraft at the airfield may attend the show free of charge.

The EAA will hand out awards to pilots at noon. The event will end around 2 p.m.

“We try to start it early in the day before it gets hot,” Fletcher said. “That’s the best time for flying, especially at lower altitudes when you’re flying down the lake and back because it’s cooler.”

Fletcher noted this year’s fly-in is geared toward helping children experience the wonders of flight.

“We will have the sky soldiers bring their Huey helicopter and a Cobra gunship helicopter again,” Fletcher said. “A lot of pilots will give kids their first airplane ride throughout the day.”

The local Civil Air Patrol, Lanier Flight Center and Young Eagles organizations will introduce children to aviation. Fletcher pointed out the Young Eagles group takes several kids up in the air for the first time.

“We fly hundreds of kids each year,” Fletcher said. “Those kids who are really interested in it will end up coming out to the ‘Cracker’ or getting involved with the flight school and getting their pilot’s license.”

For those wanting to enjoy fun on the ground, the Cracker Fly-In will have inflatable jump houses, firetrucks, police cars and ambulances for children to explore. Kids also may sit in some of the aircraft and play with the controls, depending on the pilot.

“We’re really trying to introduce kids to flight this year,” Fletcher said. “A lot of kids have never been near an airplane, so we want to give them a chance to have that experience.”

For adults and children alike, the Fly-In will continue its traditional pancake breakfast. The cost is $5, and the EAA begins serving at 7 a.m. when the event kicks off. Families are welcome to bring a picnic lunch if desired.

“We have a lot of pilots who fly in and come straight over to the pancakes,” Fletcher said. “We will also have lunch from Branch House Tavern available starting at 11 a.m.”

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