When Charles Lindbergh made Craig a small part of his famous transcontinental flight, his appearance over the town in September 1927 was the first time many - if not most - of the residents had seen an aircraft.
In preparation for the upcoming county fair, a makeshift runway had been built west of town for the Crawford and Van Horn airplane that had been booked to appear during the festivities. The airstrip was located about where the Kmart parking lot is today.
As the Spirit of St. Louis made her final pass over Craig that day, some of the men of the town tried to direct Lindbergh to their new airstrip, but he pointed west, wagged the plane's wings and flew on to Salt Lake City.
Lindbergh didn't land in Craig that day, although he did drop a printed greeting to the town's people. But his appearance gave them irrefutable proof the airplane was on the way to the Yampa Valley.
In 1929, a giant step into the future came when pilot Ernie Longbrake and officials of the Intermountain Flying service landed a six-passenger plane on a 120-acre tract of land south of the Yampa River.
"The visitors stated that the field, with little expense, could be made a safe and convenient airport. The Craig town board has been offered the tract, which is level and underlain with gravel, at a very fair price. It is probable that a decision to buy the tract and improve it as a landing field will be made at the next meeting of the board" (Craig Empire October 23, 1929).
Just a few weeks after Longbrake and his company approved the proposed site, Mayor E.E. Brockman signed the final papers that "purchased the 120-acre site from Mrs. Della Morris Beach of Pasadena through W.H. Tucker. The land cost the town $1,200" (Craig Empire December 4, 1929).
"Moffat County has promised to aid in the grading and leveling : oiled runways will be constructed and the Texas Company has offered to furnish the oil for the runways. With slight expenditure, pilots who have used the field during the past year say, the airport can secure a Class A government rating."
For the next 20 years, the airport was used by mail planes as well as passenger and agriculture aircraft. In 1946 the airport was enlarged when the main runway was doubled in width and the addition of two cross runways made it possible to accommodate more and larger aircraft. Jim Eskridge built a large shop at the airfield where at least two planes could be hangared for repairs.
During 1947, the city purchased 160 acres from Leon Breeze, 120 acres from Lowry Seely, 160 acres from Lou Peila and another 20 acres by condemnation suit. The additional land gave the airport facility plenty of open space for safe landings and takeoffs.
In 1948, the city spent about $30,000 to bring the runway to 5,600 feet long and 100 feet wide. A loop of drainage ditches was constructed in preparation for Monarch Airlines' new passenger service to Craig. The town was embracing the future - some more than others.
"There are people in Craig:who 30 years ago stood in the mud of unpaved streets and said they would never ride in one of those newfangled gas buggies. But if you took away their automobiles today it is doubtful if many of them could still ride a horse. And a lot of those who could, wouldn't" (Craig Empire-Courier October 6, 1948).
Earlier that year, residents of the Yampa Valley were able to see firsthand what all the buzz about airplanes was when the City hosted its second annual air show. The planes were big, and the crowds weren't disappointed.
"Featured (were) three of the fastest airplanes on earth, army P-80s jet propelled. :Universal was the acclaim for the sleek jet planes which gave unbelievable demonstrations of speed and climbing power.
"It was the first time that any such plane ever disturbed the air of northwestern Colorado. They zoomed over the field and shot straight up into the air for 4,000 feet" (Craig Empire-Courier, June 25, 1948).
The large crowd also watched as a King Cobra P-63 performed aerobatics and a sail plane glided silently overhead. Colorado Governor Lee Knous arrived in a DC-3 aircraft flown in for the occasion by Monarch Airlines.
"Governor Knous was introduced and gave a short talk : in which he congratulated Craig and Moffat County for their progressive attitude toward aviation as demonstrated through the air show."
A parachutist demonstrated his skills for the crowd. He didn't quite hit his mark after deploying his parachute at 1,500 ft., but no one seemed to mind much. Two military paratroopers got closer to their intended target, but only jumped from 500 feet.
"Major Sullivan gave a demonstration of dive bombing and blew up a shack on the airport field." (ibid)
The airport continued to be upgraded through the 1950s and '60s, when runway and guidance lights were installed. The runway has seen many private and commercial planes land and take off in the past half century. Work is underway today on yet more improvements to bring the airport up to 21st century standards.
History will repeat itself today when the Craig Centennial celebration will move to the airport for a day of aerial activities. Once again, Craig residents will have the opportunity to watch parachutists drift over the airfield. Modern day pilots will take part in a fly-in while some older planes - some the vintage of the first air show - will be on display. The air show will give young and old an opportunity to revisit history as they help make the newest chapter in Craig's book.
Shannan Koucherik may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org