The Osceola County Fair and Livestock Show provides many things to look at. But right from the get go … you’ll wanna look up.
Opening day of the fair will be historic … and a nod to history.
At the opening ceremony and ribbon cutting scheduled for around 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 14, look to the sky for a flyover of the World War II B-17 used in the movie, “Memphis Belle.” This historic aircraft, built in 1945, is scheduled to make a low-level pass over the fairgrounds to mark the official opening ceremony of the Fair, an event you won’t want to miss on February 14th at around 3:30 p.m.
Thom Richard of the Warbird Adventures Museum on Hoagland Boulevard near Kissimmee Gateway Airport will be at the controls of Memphis Belle, one of eight operational B-17s in the world, but not without a huge volunteer effort.
“It’s a ton to operate,” Richard said. “That why we’re doing the Fair at all, it’s a short trip.”
Fair General Manager Larry Berry hopes to send World War II veterans up with Richard, since Opening Day is a tribute to veterans and first responders, so the flyover ties into that. Veterans and first responders can get $3 gate tickets, $5 off the regular price, and $1 of that will go to the Positive Action Foundation, which funds a service to provide companion dogs for discharged military with PTSD.
The B-17 was one of the strategic bombers used in World War II, engaging in daytime bombing in Europe and going head-to-head with the Luftwaffe. It was also used in the Pacific theater, then became an executive transport in Korea in the 1950s.
In 1980, David Tallichet acquired the aircraft to take it on the air show tour. It’s home base is at the National War Plane Museum in Geneseo, N.Y., but this warbird is a snowbird.
“It winters in Florida, and tours up and down the East Coast,” said Richard, who flew competitive aircraft, including a Formula I race win a year later, before a landing strip crash took him out of competition a year later.
Memphis Belle is just one piece of the Warbird Adventures Museum, which has been in town for 22 years showcasing different historic aircraft, from 1900 up through the Vietnam era.
“What’s important about what we do is we take people up in these things and fly them,” Richard said. “We offer advanced primary training if you want to learn to fly from scratch.”