Camp Gordon Johnston Days and the premier Carrabelle Fly-in at Thompson Field drew hefty crowds to Carrabelle on Saturday, beneath cloudless blue skies.
Tim Sullivan, airport manager and event organizer, said the fly-in attracted 37 small planes, mostly from Dothan, Alabama, south Georgia and central Florida. In addition there were seven planes on display, including the 1936 Lockheed 12 A Electra Junior, used in the film “Amelia” starring Hillary Swank and Richard Gere.
The Franklin County Tourist Development Council (TDC) provided $10,000 in start-up funding for the fly-in. TDC Executive Director Curt Blair said it was “not an unreasonable amount” to spend on such an event.
“(The fly-in) really exceeded our expectations by quite a bit,” Sullivan said. “We ran out of food early. Everyone was very happy. The city, county and TDC all worked very well together.”
He said the fly-in was intended to complement the Camp Gordon Johnston Days celebration.
Sullivan estimated attendance at 600 to 700 people and said one of the high points of the event was a visit from the Live Oak chapter of the Young Eagles, an organization that seeks to promote interest in aviation in youth from ages 8 to 17.
Young Eagles collected information from kids visiting the airport and had two small planes on hand to offer free rides to the youngsters. Sullivan said the route ran along the coast to the Franklin County School and back. There was also a helicopter on hand offering hops circling the airport for $35.
David Butler, who coordinated the Camp Gordon Johnston Days parade in town, said the fly-in encouraged local people who had never visited Thompson Field to go and check it out.
Downtown, the Camp Gordon Johnston Days’ annual parade came off without a hitch. Attendance appeared to be slightly down from past years and Butler said the parade was the shortest ever, largely due to the fact the Camp Gordon Johnston board lost four members over the last 12 months including founder Tony Minichiello who together with his wife, Museum Director Linda Minichiello, retired.
In addition, Butler said the board’s attentions are focused on completing construction of the new building that will house the museum collection across US 98 from Carrabelle Beach because of concerns about the status of the museum’s current quarters in the Carrabelle Municipal Complex..
Grand Marshalls in this year’s parade were World War II veterans Dick Derby, John Gilbert, Bob Dietz, Jim Patrone, Carl Fowler and Dick Jaslowski.
Sullivan said the fly-in committee plans a debriefing next week to begin discussion of next year’s fly-in. He thanked all of the volunteers that made the event possible.