Vintage Wines to Vintage Planes

July 01, 1994

A two-day air show, like the one being proposed for the Carroll County Regional Airport, is precisely the kind of attraction the county could use to bolster its nascent tourism industry. The Maryland Wine Festival held each September at the Carroll County Farm Museum has already become a major event; with proper planning and promotion, an air show could be equally successful.

Seeing vintage biplanes, World War II fighters and bombers flying overhead can be exhilarating and entertaining. Watching a plane swoop toward the ground, pull into a vertical climb and break off into a barrel roll is probably as exciting as watching Rafael Palmeiro belt a baseball over the right field wall at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

June M. Poage, whose company, Westair Inc., manages the airport, recognizes the potential. Aficionados of classic airplanes will routinely travel hundreds of miles to watch them fly or to have the chance to examine them up close on a runway. Dayton, Ohio, has built a visitor industry on the history of aviation and air shows.

It would also be fitting to have an air show at the airport named after Ms. Poage's husband Jack, who helped manage it from 1979 until September 1990, when he died while performing a stunt at the county's last air show.

As many as 30,000 people might attend a two-day air show, the organizers estimate. A two-day show in 1990 sponsored by the Rotary Club attracted 18,000 people.

The promotional possibilities shouldn't be limited to tourism. If the $11 million runway expansion at the county airport is completed according to schedule, a flashy exhibition would be an appropriate way to call attention to the airport improvements for business development purposes.

Because Carroll County does not have many widely known historic sites, its tourism efforts should focus on events such as this. Finding other appropriate attractions should be a priority for the county's tourist office. With the wine festival attracting more than 10,000 people each fall, the county has a solid base on which to build.

A great deal of work must be completed before Sopwith Camels, Mosquitoes and Hellcats buzz Carroll's friendly skies, but the commissioners made a smart move in allowing Ms. Poage to proceed with her efforts to stage a major air show.

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