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Airplanes, automobiles to take center stage at 6th annual Wings and Wheels event

HOULTON, Maine — Automotive and airplane buffs will have an opportunity to get up close looks at their preferred mode of transportation as the sixth annual Wings and Wheels Fly-In/Cruise-In takes flight Saturday, Aug. 11, at the Houlton International Airport.

“We have decided to go in a little bit of a different direction this year,” said Jane Torres, executive director of the Greater Houlton Chamber of Commerce. “We are not having an airshow, but we will have a lot of airplanes there, and plane-oriented games for kids to try.”

In 2014, about 2,500 people came out for the event., while in 2015, inclement weather resulted in fewer attendees and a number of events, including the air show and skydiving, being cancelled. In 2016. about 800 people paid the gate fee to attend and last year, the event drew more than 1,000 people despite cloudy conditions.

The air show, while a popular draw, proved to be an expensive proposition for the organizers and considering that weather plays a major role in the ability to host the air show, the decision was made not to continue with that this year.

However, Vacationland Skydiving once again will offer opportunities for tandem jumps out of an airplane for those wishing to purchase tickets. Helicopter rides from Acadia Air Tours also will be available for purchase.

Houlton’s International Airport is a hidden treasure for many and is filled with a rich historical past. Torres said many people can still recall the days when the airport was used by the United States Air Force as a camp for German prisoners of war. At one time there were 4,000 people at the Air Force base and planes were towed across the border to Canada to aid the war effort.

To commemorate that history, Leigh Cummings of the Aroostook County Historical and Art Museum will conduct tours of key spots in the Industrial Park in a horse-drawn wagon.

The idea for a “fly-in” formed when Torres, former Town Manager Eugene Conlogue, and former Economic and Community Development Director Lori Weston were brainstorming new ideas to draw people to town.

The Maine Forestry Service also will have its helicopter on sight and will demonstrate the “water drop” technique it uses when fighting forest fires. Local pilot Gene Ross also will do the popular candy drop for children.

The Houlton Rotary Club has sponsored a “Kid’s Zone,” complete with bounce houses. In addition, a tractor train for youths will give rides. The musical group “Rock Renaissance” will perform a concert starting at noon.

Skydiving begins at 8 a.m. followed by the opening ceremonies at 9 a.m. with a color guard. If there is great enough demand, skydiving jumps will continue on Sunday.

“I would love to see 100 antique cars for the car show and 100 planes for the fly-in, but so much of it depends on the weather,” Torres said.

Admission to the event is $6 for those 16 and older; $3 for youths ages 6-15; and children 5 and younger are free. Admission includes a free breakfast from 7-9 a.m. For more information, call the Chamber office at 532-4216.

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