As if the Bikes, Bombers and Butterflies weekend in Great Bend wasn’t already jam-packed full of activity, Great Bend Fire Chief Mike Napolitano has given the green light for the city fireworks display on Saturday night, Sept. 22 at the airport. The show begins a half-hour after sundown, immediately following the POW MIA ceremony which starts at 7 p.m. as part of the Great Bend Airport Airfest.
Individual fireworks displays are still off limits in Great Bend, and throughout Barton County, Napolitano said. Martin Miller, director of the Great Bend Municipal Airport said absolutely no individual fireworks would be allowed at the airport, which is owned by the city.
For people who want to light off their stashes purchased earlier this summer, they’ll have to wait a few more weeks.
“That is something that needs to be coordinated with all the other fire departments in the county,” he said.
By only allowing a public display that night, the fire department will be able to devote more equipment to the display site.
“A fireworks display following the POW MIA ceremony and the day’s World War II ground battle reenactments seems like a fitting tribute,” he said. “Thanks to the cooperation of several individuals and organizations, we’ve been able to reduce the risk to a manageable level to make this possible.”
Airport officials, a neighboring farmer, the Great Bend Parks department, Sunflower Diversified and the Great Bend Fire Department have coordinated a plan that will use the natural firebreak of the triangulated airport runways to provide a barrier between the launch site and the fields of wheat stubble and dry grass that surrounds the area, Napolitano said.
Drought still a concern
Barton County is still in a drought, despite recent rains. The area is still very dry, Napolitano cautions.
A farmer works the fields that abut the airport, and his home sits within the fire danger zone. Should a fire start accidentally, and the fields of wheat stubble burn, Napolitano said he would be set back three years, and risk losing personal property. But the unnamed farmer wants the display to happen, and is helping by swathing a 1,000-foot radius around the launch site, and an additional firebreak between this radius and the airstrips. He will be there on Saturday night with his tractor and disk staged should sparks set anything off. Two fire trucks will also be staged and on site. In addition, the dry brome surrounding the launch site will also be wet down prior to the display.
Where to go
Instead of heading to the Great Bend Expo Complex, Community Director Christina Hayes said visitors will need to park and view the display from the airport.
The Big Bend Bike Rally will be in full swing at the Expo Complex that evening, and Midwest bluegrass musician Split Lip Rayfield will be performing from 8 p.m. to midnight. There will be a $10 fee charged to anyone trying to enter the complex to watch fireworks.
Turn south on 10th Street at the intersection by the Fuller Brush complex. This road will take you to the airport parking lot. From there, visitors can watch from their cars, or if they prefer, they can bring their lawn chairs to the cement apron by the terminal and the hangar, and have optimal viewing.
The Biennial Great Bend Airport Airfest continues to add additional attractions each year, Miller said. The lineup which includes a general aviation fly in with 80 to 100 aircraft expected, learn to fly seminars and promotions, battleground reenactments, an Eisenhower impersonator, several displays, and opportunities to ride historical military aircraft.
Planes like the P-51D Mustang, Gunfighter, owned by Larry Lumpkin, the C-45 Expeditor, owned by Gregg Downing, an the B-25 Mitchell, “Maid in the Shade” owned by Donna Brown, as well as a PT-23 , and a UC-78 owned by Bennett Sorensen will be on display. All three will be offering tours on Friday and Saturday. Attendees can take a ride in any of these warbirds, as well as helicopter rides on a Robinson Raven owned by Wichita-based DWTA Helicopter on Sunday.
Members of the Great Bend chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association will be on hand to help with various activities, and Centerline Aviation will offer introductory flights to anyone interested in learning to fly.
Saturday, at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., attendees can see a reenactment of a WWII ground battle. That evening at 7 p.m., a ceremony honoring and remembering POW-MIAs is planned, followed by the City of Great Bend’s fireworks display. Then, head over to the hangar for a 1940s inspired dance.
“There will be staged dancers who know how to do swing there, so it should be a really exciting dance,” said Hayes.
Over at the Expo Center, motorcyclists, or those who simply drool when they hear the words Harley, Victory, Kawasaki and Ducati will be in Hog-heaven. The beer garden and concessions are available from 10 a.m. when the gates open until midnight. At noon, it will be a tough choice between the anvil shooting demonstration and Run What You Brung racing (let’s hope the anvil shooting demo is aimed the opposite direction).
At 1 p.m., the American Legion Riders Parade Ride heads over to the AirFest for the 2 p.m. B-25 Bomber fly-over and battle reenactment. Nitro-exhibitions, daredevils, games, and more anvil shooting fill the rest of the afternoon, as will music from several live performances leading up to the star-billing concert at 8 p.m., a performance by Split Lip Rayfield. Entry to the rally for latecomers will be half-price after 8 p.m.
There truly is something for everyone in Great Bend on Saturday, Sept. 22. For those looking for a family friendly activity that also helps science and our environment, attend “Mad About Monarchs” at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center from 9 a.m. to noon.
“ Last year we had a lot of young families with kids and they had a ball,” said Curtis Wolf, KWEC director.
The tagging project, Monarch Watch, is being done in conjunction with the University of Kansas.
Participants will catch and tag Monarch butterflies. The tags, tiny stickers about the diameter of a pencil, include a number that identifies the gender of the butterfly.
“The tags are very lightweight and do not damage wings,” Wolf said. “If someone should happen to find the butterfly again, they can go to the website listed on the sticker or call the phone number to report the location. This provides valuable information about migration patterns.
Kids can do crafts and door prizes will be given away. The KEWC will also give each family a milkweed plant to take home to plant in their yard to attract Monarchs to their yard, Wolf said.
The Golden Belt Community Association presents Collin Raye, country music performer, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday evening at the City auditorium.
Sunflower Diversified is holding their Pancake Feed, featuring Chris Cakes. Hold out your plate and he’ll flip you a pancake from yards away.
Friday, all area schools have been invited to attend the events over at the airport.
At 2:30 p.m. Friday afternoon all USD 428 students will be dismissed to attend the Great Bend High School homecoming parade downtown. The Panthers battle Wichita North at 7 p.m. The Madrigals host a chili supper from 5 to 7 in the GBHS commons.
On Saturday, the 2012 Walk to End Alzheimer’s registration begins at 1:30 p.m. with the walk to follow at 2:00 p.m. at the Barton County Courthouse Square. There is no registration fee, but donations are expected. Those submitting donations of $100 or more will receive a t-shirt for participating.
Also on Saturday evening, the Heartland Cancer Center is holding their annual auction at Stoneridge Country Club starting at 6:00 p.m.