Saturday, July 19


Elkhart throws annual welcoming-back party, homecoming     Send a link to a friend

[JULY 19, 2003]  Homecoming festivities in Elkhart began Friday evening and continue today (Saturday) with a townwide yard sale, which started at 8 a.m. This year's sale includes many first-timers, collectibles, crafts, antiques and much more.

A youth group will be cooking up rib-eye sandwiches until 1 p.m.

Afternoon highlights are:

--A car show (started at 11 a.m.)

--Children's games from 5 to 7 p.m.

--Fried chicken dinner of potato salad, green beans, applesauce, marinated cucumber salad, dinner roll and drink served from 5 to 8 p.m.

--Mount Pulaski cheerleaders performing at 5:30 p.m.

--Area cloggers dancing at 6 p.m.

The evening will close with a street dance featuring the band The Twang Gang from 8 p.m. to midnight. 

The winner of the 50-50 $1,000 drawing will be announced at 9 p.m. Only 200 chances are being sold.

All special events, food stands and entertainment will be downtown on the main street of Elkhart. Games and inflatable rides will be free to children.

[News release] 




Middletown celebrates 100th anniversary of flight in the USA     Send a link to a friend

[JULY 19, 2003]  Although Middletown does not even have an airport, God has placed the village “on the map” through aviation history.  The town will celebrate their unique history of aviation during this, the USA’s 100th anniversary of flight, at their annual ice cream social this Sunday, July 20, 2003. 

The ice cream social will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Middletown Park. The public is invited to join the fun at the park pavillion. Lawn chairs are advised.

---1 p.m. Music by the Possum Holler Pickers
---2:30 p.m. Randy Conklen sharing his hot-air ballooning experience
---3 p.m. The Hutchison Family musical group

Ice cream, cake or pie and coffee or iced tea will be available for $3.50, pop is $.50. Proceeds will be used to buy storage units for maps, oversized books, artifacts, quilts, etc. at the Knapp Library/Museum.

The Knapp/Chestnut/Becker Historical Society, Inc. will host the Randy Conklen family with their hot air balloon, Sunkissed. The Conklen crew consist of Randy, his wife Mary and their children, Robin and Reid. Both Randy and Reid can pilot the balloon. The balloon is co-owned with two other families, Jim Phelan and Bob Green.

Sunkissed is made of ripstop nylon and carries a wicker basket that will hold three passengers in addition to the pilot. If weather permits the balloon will be inflated for viewing at the south end of the park. Crew members will be on hand to answer questions.

Conklen’s interest in ballooning began about four years ago. He was inspired by friends and members of the team, he says.

Randy is the son of Irwin and Lila (Hawes) Conklen, New Holland and the grandson of Edgar and Beulah (Wendell) Conklen, deceased.

While aviation history began on December 17, 1903 with the Wright brothers flight of “the Flyer” at Kitty Hawk, NC, Middletown was not long to follow in establishing some of it’s own aviation history.

On October 9, 1911 the pilot of the first transcontinental flight across America, Cal Rogers ran out of fuel and landed his plane in Henry Hinck’s field on the east side of Middletown. Roger’s was flying the “Vin Fiz”. It was named for a soft drink.

The flight was sponsored by Armour & Co. The Armour entourage was following as closely as possible by train. Roger’s was on a leg of the flight from Chicago to Peoria to Springfield.

The “Vin Fiz” flight across America was completed on December 10 when Roger’s landed in California. The flight took in 84 days.








The infamous Charles Lindbergh, who flew “the Spirit of St. Louis” across the Atlantic Ocean for the first non-stop solo flight, often flew over Middletown. From 1926 – 1927 Lindbergh flew the mail route from St. Louis to Chicago via a route following the train tracks west of Middletown.











[An aerial picture of the Sunkissed balloon.]


Raymond Estill remembers a stormy night in May 1927 when Lindbergh came to his home for help.

Perhaps most significant at putting Middletown in the aviation history books was the landing of the Flying Light Bulb, a hot air balloon piloted by John Petrehn (pronounced pete run) of Overland, Kansas. Petrehn landed on the north edge of town on January 18, 1984. Temperatures hovered around 20 degrees below zero as he attempted to break distance and endurance records.

Petrehn began the flight that he had been planning for two years, in Huron, South Dakota. When he landed in Middletown he broke five world hot-air balloon records. Those records were recorded by the National Aeronautic Assoc., Washington, D.C. and the Federation of Aeronautical Internationale, Paris, France.

Petrehn’s actual focus of his record breaking 1984 flight was to raise money for the American Cancer Society. He and his wife Jackie had lost one of their 11 children to cancer.

Today, six of the Petrehn children, including their one daughter, are pilots.

In 1986 Middletown ranked third in the world among “cities” with the largest number of world aviation records (Ballooning, the Balloon Federation of America, winter 1986). It was the only city in the world where five world aviation records by a hot-air balloon were set in one flight.

Some side notes:
Petrehn flew over the Conklen home on the New Holland-Middletown blacktop when he was breaking his five world records. Having met them since that time his widow spoke highly of the Randy Conklen team when she was at last year’s Yesterday’s Tomorrows.

The first heavier-than-air machine flight by Orville and Wilber Wright lasted only 12 seconds. It was witnessed by only five people. Three newspapers attended and even their hometown, Dayton, Ohio paper ignored the event.

[press release/LDN]

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