Saturday, July 9, 2016

Ten years later: Willmar Municipal Airport (KBDH), Kandiyohi County, Minnesota -The Kathryn Report

WILLMAR --  On Sept. 5, 2006, a Piper Warrior II aircraft was the first plane to land at the new Willmar Municipal Airport, located two miles west of town.

"The first airplane legally landed and they opened up the new airport," said Pat Curry, Willmar Airport Commission chairman.

Ten years later the commission is seeking to hold a high flying party to celebrate the airport's anniversary.

"I really believe I have something exciting to talk about tonight," Curry said when he spoke Tuesday at the Willmar City Council meeting.

The celebration is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 4, at the airport. Curry said it will include music, food and, of course, planes.

"It is going to be a great day," Curry said.

Curry said he is in talks with pilots to offer free plane rides to winners in a drawing, and there will also be planes on display, including at least one World War II plane from the Fagen family of Granite Falls, along with drones and remote control airplanes.

"This is to get together, show the airplanes, show the business people. This is a working airport," Curry said.

The Boy Scouts will be cooking up 2,000 sausages provided by Jennie-O Turkey Store and will also have Willmar Airport caps available for sale, provided by Steve Rambow, Curry said.

"We need to have people come out," Curry said.

Before the big day, Curry hopes to give the F-14 "Tomcat" which welcomes visitors to the airport a fresh coat of paint. He is looking for volunteers to help.

Curry also put out a call for volunteers for the actual celebration. Help will be needed for many tasks, including directing traffic.

In addition to celebrating the Willmar Airport and its future, Curry hopes the event will be a celebration of those who have made the airport possible and a success, especially focusing on Mary Jane Rice, who with her late husband, John, was instrumental in getting Willmar an airport in the first place.

"This woman is a fabulous woman," Curry said. Mary Jane Rice is scheduled to attend the festivities on Sept. 4.

Following World War II, the Rices began the airport operation in Willmar.

"They came to Willmar to run the airport, which wasn't much at the time," Curry said, adding the airport did not have a tarred runway until 1958.

Along with managing the airport, the Rices also established a very successful aviation business themselves, which included selling Mooney aircraft.

"They had great service," Curry said.

Curry requested Willmar Mayor Marv Calvin issue a proclamation in Mary Jane Rice's honor, perhaps naming Sept. 4 Mary Jane Rice day. Calvin was absent from Tuesday's meeting, but Mayor Pro Tem Ron Christianson said he would pass on the request.

"That would be a good thing for her," Christianson said.

With their Willmar Airport caps on, the council members said they would spread the word about the fun at the airport. Christianson said airport events are usually very well-attended.

"If you're interested in planes, please come out," Christianson said.

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