St. Marys airport to host aviation festival

From aircraft displays and a classic car show to an array of vendors the St. Marys Municipal Airport's annual American Spirit Aviation Festival is hoping to attract a large crowd on Saturday, Aug. 25."We've been struggling in the past, but we are doing a lot better. Our nose is above water and we expect it to get better. This festival is part of all that. Changing the image of the airport," said Alan McPherson, airport manager. "This has been an annual event and has been getting bigger every year. This year is more about seeing if we can make this go."Gates open at 8 a.m. with the opening ceremony taking place at 9 a.m. The ceremony features performances by the Elk County Catholic and St. Marys Area high school marching bands, a flag raising by the U.S. Civil Air Patrol of Clarion County and a water salute with the Crystal Fire Department. Airshow promoter Jim Vessella described the salute as a tradition at air shows. Firetrucks are positioned 10-12 feet apart and the runway and as they spray water from the hoses, this combines with the morning sun to create a rainbow.In addition to a static vintage aircraft display, the Elk County Cruisers are organizing a classic car display which they host annually at the airport and continues to grow in size. Airplane rides will also be given by the Elk Flyers organization from by pilots in a Cesna 172, Piper Archer 2, Aeronca-Champ and bi-plane as well as from Cloud 9 Aerosports in an ultra light. A majority of the vendors are setting up on Friday evening with a small few arriving on Saturday. Among those vendors are crafts, jewelry, kettle corn, embroidery and more.While Whissel's Stop of St. Marys is the main food vendor there will also be a sausage vendor, with all proceeds benefitting the airport. Straub Beer will also be available from the brewery's trailer. The airport's West Wind restaurant will be open for business as usual and is hosting a band.A fly-in pancake breakfast is being held Saturday morning beginning at 6 a.m. inside an airport hanger. The breakfast is $6 and is open to the general public. It includes pancakes, eggs, sausage, juice, coffee and water. McPherson said he is seeking volunteers to assist with the breakfast. "We are expecting 200 aircraft at event with pilots flying in from Philly for the event," McPherson said.He added transportation will be provided for pilots and their families interested in visiting downtown St. Marys.The 40-members of the Civil Air Patrol in attendance will assist with the marshaling of aircraft as well as additional aviation duties. A 5K run and 2 mile walk, hosted by the Elk County Striders, will also take place Saturday morning with registration beginning at 8:45 a.m and the race starting at 9 a.m. Participants will travel down a flat course down S. Michael Road around the end of the airport and onto S. Michael Road extension which is situated on the opposite side of the airport. The cost is $12 for pre-registration with applications needing postmarked by Aug. 21 and $15 registration on the day of the event. T-shirts will be distributed to those who pre-register. Trophies will be awarded to the top three finishers in each of the seven male and female age groups along with the female top male and top female racers. Additional information is available at, by contacting the airport at 834-4671 or Ben Zappa at 776-2143 or e-mailing him at