David Santana, 15, woke up at 5 a.m. Saturday to make his way down to the Albany Municipal Airport and stand in line for a chance to take to the skies — something he’s been planning for three days and thinking about much longer.
His girlfriend, Ices Flaska, 16, was less sure.
“My stomach turned as soon as I stepped in the plane,” she said, her head peeking out of the small plane that sat on the runway just before takeoff.
The teens were two of the 100 or so Young Eagles who would fly for free on Saturday during the 20th annual Art & Air Festival, presented by Central Willamette Credit Union. The three-day event also included art vendors, a car show, a hot air balloon launch and veteran rocker Rick Springfield in concert.
“Some of them get here early because they know we take those 100 spots and once those are filled, they’re filled,” said Gar Burroughs, president of the EAA Chapter 1524, which donates planes and pilots’ time for the event.
That 5 a.m. wake-up call and rush to the airport was followed by a 20-minute class that detailed the basics of flight and offered safety information. Once complete, Young Eagles waited their turn to fly, ushered from a tent and across the tarmac by nearly 50 volunteers over the course of two days.
“We’ve been doing this longer than the Art & Air Festival has been going on,” Burroughs said. “You have some kids come out who have never been to an airport and some who come back year after year.”
Burroughs said he has encountered very few children who get airsick but those who didn’t have dream of flight could make their way to the arts portion of the three-day event held in Albany's Timber-Linn Park.
Kellen and Laura Swanson of Corvallis marked their third year at the festival selling wooden bowties under the moniker, Tumalo Ties.
“I just kind of needed something to fill the long winter with and started whittling and there was a wooden bowtie,” Kellen said. The part-time gig helps support the family of five and keeps them coming back to the Art & Air Festival.
First-time sellers Chase and Chandra Rogers of Woodburn said they were impressed by the festival and that they had an entirely different reason for starting their metalworks business, which has morphed into a full-time job.
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“I hate working for people,” said Chase, a Navy veteran. Chandra added that the business allowed both parents to stay home with the kids.
While selling their art at the fair was a way for the families to support their kids and their futures, other participants in Saturday’s Art & Air Festival were happy to celebrate the past.
When Sandy Wehrman was in high school in 1978, she bought a 1966 Ford Mustang for $750.
“I got tired of riding the bus,” she said. “I’m from West Linn and it took an hour to get to school.”
On Saturday, she showed the car during the car show portion of the festival, which sat between the Linn County Fair and Expo Center and Timber-Linn Park.
After high school, she said, she didn't drive the Mustang much.
“We were married in 1982 and then had two kids,” Wehrman said.
Years later, both of her daughters learned to drive in the car and after many moves and many years, her husband opted to restore the car after retiring two years ago.
“Now, we just take it to car shows,” she said.
The Art & Air Festival is set to run through 2 p.m. Sunday and has attracted about 25,000 visitors, officials estimated.