By James Beaty
Final plans for the annual Armed Forces Day celebration in McAlester are taking flight, with some new additions added to activities for Saturday’s fly-in.
The weather forecast for Saturday calls for mostly cloudy skies, with a high of 62 degrees.
“It looks really good,” said Jeff Wolf, a member of the Armed Forces Day Committee.
Wolf said on Wednesday arrangements have been made for from six to 10 individuals to win free airplane rides during the fly-in Saturday at McAlester Regional Airport.
Tickets will be handed out at the airport Saturday and a drawing will be held around 1 p.m. to select the winners, he said — one of a slate of activities set for Friday and Saturday as part of Armed Forces Day observances in McAlester.
Armed Forces Day activities in McAlester kick off Friday with the annual Armed Forces Day Luncheon, set for 11 a.m., in Building No. 9 at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant. Brigadier General Hopper T. Smith, who is the assistant adjutant general for the Oklahoma Army National Guard, is the luncheon’s featured speaker.
At the luncheon, the Missing Man Table will be dedicated to members of the 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Oklahoma National Guard who have recently died in action. The 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team is linked to the famed 45th Infantry Division which was reorganized into a brigade configuration in 1968, according to Max Moss, public affairs officer with the Oklahoma National Guard.
On Saturday, activities begin with the Armed Forces Day Parade, set to start at 10 a.m. in downtown McAlester.
Wolf said Honorary Parade Marshal Kaylee Dupuis will have the honor of starting the parade.
Several of the aircraft set to participate in the Saturday fly-in at McAlester Regional Airport are expected to fly over the parade route while the parade is under way, according to Wolf.
Meanwhile, a number of participants have entered the parade over the past few weeks, he said.
Following the parade, activities are set to pick up for the fly-in at McAlester Regional Airport. The Cherokee Sky Divers, with Roger Wolf and Mel Tilly, along with pilot Ike Ennis, are set to officially open the event around noon.
Plans call for Roger Wolf and Tilly to sky-dive over the airport at noon and bring in the American flag and the POW/MIA flag during the National Anthem to officially open the fly in.
Ennis and his P-51 Mustang are expected to be among the highlights of the fly-in, Jeff Wolf said.
Among the aircraft expected are an AT-6 Texan, a Stearman Biplane and a Stinson L-5 Bird Dog, used as an observation plane during World War II and in the Korean War, Wolf said.
A Yak 50 Russian Advanced Trainer and a Canadian Chipmunk, used as a primary trainer for the Royal Canadian Air Force are also expected at the event, said Wolf.
Along with flying during Saturday’s Armed Forces Day events, most of the planes are also expected to be on static display at the airport so those attending can get a closer look at them, according to Wolf.
Other airport activities include a special drum line, consisting of drummers and percussionists from several high schools.
Free hot dogs and other snacks will be available and inflatables for children are expected to be on hand, Wolf said.
A major change this year will result in more shuttle buses offering people rides to the airport, according to Wolf.
Those attending the event at the airport are once again asked to park their vehicles at the parking lot of the Choctaw Casino, said Wolf.
KI BOIS Area Transit System and Oklahomans for Indpendent Living have made their buses available for shuttles from the parking lot, Wolf said. A train replica consisting of cars pulled by a small tractor will also be on hand to give children a ride from the parking lot to the nearby airport, Wolf said.
Wolf said he’s excited about how details of this year’s Armed Forces Day activities are coming together.
“I think it looks good. “ Wolf said Wednesday. “It’s a work in progress.”
Contact James Beaty at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more on this story, see the print or electronic editions of the McAlester News-Capital. Click here for print edition home delivery or click here to see the Smart Edition for your computer, tablet, e-reader or smartphone.