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March 19, 2002

Today we continue the saga of the Perry Air Park, a venture that made its debut more than 70 years ago on a farm field about one mile north of Perry on the west side of U.S. 77. On the east side of the highway at that point was a federal project, a rotating beacon light to assist aerial navigators. It was 1930, just about the depth of the Great Depression. Local boosters were hoping that the Perry Air Park would be the catalyst for an economic recovery in Noble county.

There were symptoms of optimism as more plans were announced for the air circus that would be staged at the Perry Air Park on October 30, 1930. W.Z. Blake, manager of the Chamber of Commerce, said hundreds of visitors were expected to join in the celebration. Many daring aerialists were booked for contests and stunts during the afternoon.

The show was scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m., and at 2:30 spectators would see various planes at the field in a balloon bursting contest. After that would be a speed race for all types of planes with engines of 225 horsepower or less. A former Perryan, Mrs. Howard (Dorothy) Pressler, was to perform an acrobatic flight at 3:30, and parachute jumps were to be seen at 5 p.m. The closing event was to be the ladies’ race, with details still to be worked out. Another headline performer was to be Jimmy Haislip, a well known stunt flier. Mr. Blake said letters were arriving daily from prominent fliers throughout the U.S. and in Canada requesting information about races and contests.

The National Aeronautics Association, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., sanctioned the races and contests to be held at the Perry Air Park. The new landing field was just a few feet west of the government emergency landing field. Both were adjacent to U.S. 77, a heavily traveled two-lane highway. The new park was under the control of the Perry Air Park, Inc., a subsidiary of the Perry Chamber of Commerce. Charles Tucker was manager of the park.

On the eve of the dedication ceremony and thrilling aerial circus displays, The Journal reported that hundreds were expected to attend. An air of excitement seemed to have invaded the town.

Alas. The best laid plans of man often fall apart at the last minute. In this case, it was a steady rainfall that doused the Perry area from morning until night on dedication day at the Perry Air Park. The weather made it impossible to perform any of the air circus stunts, the demonstrations by barnstorming pilots who were eager to show the fun of flying, or any of the other things arranged for the long-awaited event. It was a crushing blow for Mr. Blake and other Chamber of Commerce workers who had labored long and hard to arrange the program.

Instead, the arrangements committee worked with the Perry American Legion post and moved the dedication ceremony to November 11, combining it with the local Armistice Day observance. The air circus was to be staged then, along with such other attractions as the committee could secure for the new date.

According to an account in The Journal after the Armistice Day celebration, a crowd of approximately 1,000 people lined the sides of the air park for the big show on November 11. An estimated 250 passengers were carried aloft by visiting fliers in the two- and three-cabin ships that were brought here for that purpose.

When the excitement and dust had cleared after the celebration, Mr. Tucker, the airport manager, said a similar event might be held here in the future if the demand warranted. Apparently, that did not materialize and little more was heard about the Perry Air Park. Years later, during World War II, the military built a practice landing field for pilot trainers farther north of town. That now serves as the Perry Municipal Airport, and it is worthy of a separate story all by itself. That will be a project for the future.