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Say hello to more 'Hueys' at Cracker Fly-In
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Jon Doyle and his children Caz, right and Lauren watch as a Stearman biplane parks along the runway at last year’s Cracker Fly-In. - photo by Tom Reed
Cracker Fly-In
What: Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 611’s 42nd annual Cracker Fly-In
When: Begins at 7:30 a.m., with breakfast and aircraft fly-in; ends in the afternoon (no set time)
Where: Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport, Gainesville
How much: $1 donation per person; free for children younger than 12

The Huey is back, and it has company this year.

Sky Soldiers, a Hampton-based organization, was flying the UH-1H “Huey” helicopter “nonstop, with lines waiting,” at last year’s Cracker Fly-In, said Winn R. Fletcher of Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 611, which puts on the event.

“So, this year, they’re bringing two Huey helicopters,” he added.

The famous aircraft will be just one attraction at the aircraft group’s 42nd annual event Saturday at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport, off Queen City Parkway in Gainesville.

“We’re hoping to have somewhere between 150 and 200 airplanes throughout the day,” said Richard Strickland, who is working with Fletcher to organize the event.

“We’ll have some biplanes. We’ll have quite a gathering of (Piper) J-3 cubs that are going to be there. These types of folks typically stay pretty much all day, unless (bad) weather starts building up and they need to get out of there.”

Fletcher said, “We feel this is going to be the largest (event) ever. Every year, it gets larger.”

The event is set to begin at 7:30 a.m. with a pancake breakfast and fly-in of the aircraft.

Visitors can expect to peek inside an array of personal airplanes.

“We’ll have some very old aircraft showing up and competing for some of the awards we give, such as best in show, best warbird,” Fletcher said. “A lot of those guys take that very seriously and work all year to get their aircraft ready for functions such as ours.”

He added that pilots could be flying in from neighboring states, such as Florida and North Carolina.

“This is a car show for airplanes,” Fletcher said.

Also, a 1936 Lockheed 12A plane used in a movie about Amelia Earhart, who went missing while flying over the Pacific Ocean in 1937, will be returning to the event.

“That’s a big attraction,” Fletcher said. “We’ll park it front and center. A lot of people have seen the movie and want to see the plane up close.”

For families seeking a break from the planes, Gainesville Parks and Recreation will set up a play area featuring activities and games, Fletcher said.

Also, an Austin Healey club is scheduled to show up with the once-popular British sports car.

“They’re so friendly,” Fletcher said of the enthusiasts. “They just love talking about their cars.”

Also, vendors will be on hand throughout the day and a raffle will be held for free Huey rides.

Admission to the event is a $1 donation and free for children younger than 12, but some families end up giving more.

“I was looking at photographs from last year and I couldn’t believe how many strollers there were,” Fletcher said. “Kids were everywhere. This is obviously a very family-oriented function and a great way for families to ... find out what we’re doing at the airport.”

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