LOCK HAVEN - Organizers of the 27th Annual Sentimental Journey to Cub Haven Fly-In are hopeful this year will be the biggest year ever as they celebrate the 75th anniversary of Piper.
"We hope to not have enough room for all of them. The more the merrier," said Fly-in Secretary Kim Garlick on Monday as planes started to fly into the Piper Memorial Airport, and volunteers readied for this week's activities.
"Weather provided, this should be the biggest, with 300 to 400 easily," she said. "This is the 75th birthday of Piper and the Piper J-3 Cub."
Garlick noted she and other officials have been on various pilot chat rooms on the Internet and "people from all around the world are talking about it."
Some aircraft have already made their way to the airport for the week of activities. More were expected to come in Sunday, but high winds prevented that.
Some of those spending Monday in the Castanea Fire Co. Picnic Grounds were Ray Senf and judge Rich Revoir, both of Hastings, N.Y.; and Rick Bellomo of Baldwinsville, N.Y.
"It's just a good time," Bellomo said.
Senf said he will likely make the the three and a half hour car trip back to Hastings to fly down his J-3 Piper Cub either today or tomorrow.
Revoir said he has been coming down to the fly-in every year, and even started the year before it officially became known as the fly-in.
"I've been here every year... never missed one," he said. "I love it. I love the country, the area and the people... I love the J-3s and the PA-11s and the Super Cubs. They were all built right here. That's what we like about this place."
The J-3s, he said, are especially important because that's what was used to train airmen during World War II.
Revoir said he used to run a vehicle repair shop, one that his son, Scott, now runs. Rich now restores and repairs Pipers.
His son Scott is also the chief judge, and has been flying his J-3 since his 16th birthday, Rich said.
"He's now 44 and he still owns it," Rich said. "He was kind of a crazy kid and always in trouble, so his mom and I bought him the plane. He was up in it so much that he couldn't afford to put gas into his six-cylinder car. If not for the J-3, he probably would have been wrapped around a tree.
"He lives, eats, breathes and sleeps (Piper airplanes)."
Mike Strieter of Laurel, Md., was doing some light maintenance on his Taylorcraft (like checking the oil and cleaning the windows) before taking a short airplane ride Monday afternoon.
"I've been here at least 15 years, maybe more," he said, noting the Piper Fly-In is the one time a year he and his friends from Camp FUBAR come in from states like Alabama and Florida and get together.
"I see the same faces every year and I see them only once a year," Strieter said. "We all either fly our planes up, borrow a plane or drive up... but we all seem to get here every year."
He noted that he and the rest of Camp FUBAR organize the annual poker run that happens the Friday of each fly-in.
"This is a nice, low-key event. There's not many of these like this," Strieter said. "It's just a nice way for all of us to get together."
This year's theme is "Celebrating the Platinum Jubilee of the Piper J-3 Cub."
While the fly-in officially runs this Wednesday through Saturday, a special "tailgating party" will be held this evening. Vendors pay no fee for this day, and the public is invited to come to the field for free as well. The YMCA will offer miniature golf at the Piper Museum, there may be a small festival, and there will be lots of other activities for kids, too.
A banquet celebrating Piper Aircraft Co.'s 75th anniversary will be held Saturday at 5 p.m. in the blue vendor building at the Castanea Fire Co. Picnic Grounds. The guest speaker will be Bradley Smith, Commander 0-5, U.S. Navy. Smith was forced to eject over North Vietnam while flying his 77th combat mission on March 25, 1966. The North Vietnamese captured him and held him as a prisoner of war until his release during Operation Homecoming on Feb. 12, 1973.
Smith will relate his story of his years as a POW.
Tickets for the banquet may be purchased throughout the Fly-In at the Piper Aviation Museum gift trailer on the grounds. Tickets will be available from 9 a.m. June 20 to about noon on June 23. No reservations will be taken, but tickets must be purchased prior to the banquet. The cost is $25.
Free nightly entertainment under the big pavilion from 7 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Friday. A hospitality bar opens at 5 p.m. on Saturday. Drinks are free. Donations are appreciated.
More information is available at www.sentimentaljourneyfly-in.com or 570-893-4200.