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Fathers celebrated at annual Columbia Airport Fly-In
By Melissa Hutsell

Cal Fire pilot Geoffrey “Craig” Hunt, who died last year flying for the Dog Rock Fire in Yosemite, will be honored at the 49th Annual Father’s Day Fly-In at the Columbia Airport. A small dedication for Hunt will precede the National Anthem at 11:30 a.m. at the opening ceremony of the three-day event set for June 19-21.

The event, sponsored by the airport, will celebrate the holiday weekend with live music, airplane rides, and family-friendly activities.

What began with a handful of people in 1966, now attracts thousands from all over the region, said Tuolumne County Airports Manager Benny Stuth.

“It began as a relatively simple fly-in where a bunch of pilots would meet up and camp out at the airport for the Father’s Day weekend. It grew from there," said Stuth.

This year, attendance is expected to reach more than 1,200 people as the weekend will expand to include entertainment, food, contests and airplane rides.

Friday night will kick off with free admission, an evening BBQ hosted by the Columbia Fire Department, and an outdoor movie at the airport’s campground. A traditional Father’s Day dinner will follow on Saturday night. Among the plethora of local food vendors, the Fly-In will introduce its first annual chili cook-off from noon to 3 p.m. Guests can also expect the ever-popular pancake breakfast, hosted by the by the Boy Scouts on both Saturday and Sunday morning.

The festivities that accompany the food will impress the entire family.

“We have six cars ranging from a Ferrari to supped-up Camaros and Corvettes that will be racing a TBM aircraft,” adds Stuth.

In addition to an airplane and car race down the runway, guests can also expect to see two T-28s, A Beech 18, 4 WWII Yaks, and a B-25, among other Warbirds and antique aircraft….even a chance to take a ride in some of them!

“Most of the airplane rides entail takeoff, a quick flight around the pattern and a low pass down the runway, after which they will be taken around the mountain area that can range from points in Calaveras and as far south as Groveland/Yosemite area. The B-25 ride will be a great option for flights as people flying in the B-25 will be able to move around the aircraft during flight, including being able to look out the rear entrance as the plane flies around,” said Stuth.

Also new to this year’s Father’s Day weekend celebration, an expanded kids tent titled the “Kids' Hangar” which offers jump houses, arts and crafts and opportunities to hear from pilots.

You don’t have to be an aviation enthusiast to enjoy Father’s Day like this.

“It sure beats a simple brunch,” added Stuth, “I mean, how much better than this can it get?”

For more information, including ticket and ride fees, visit

Fact Box:
• During the event’s height in popularity, more than 6,00 guests attended the fly-in.
• The movie, "Radio Flyer," was filmed at the Columbia Airport.
• The airport, originally known as Ralph Field, was dedicated on June 15 and 16 in 1935. The airport became known as Columbia Airport in 1944.
• Parking this year will not be on the airfield as it has been in past years, but instead, at the Columbia Elementary for $2 per car.