The instant the rotor blades began whirring around her, 10-year-old Brittany Young felt a surge of anxiety as the Zephyr Helicopter in which she was riding lifted off the ground.
However, once airborne, she said she felt completely safe as the helicopter zoomed around the airspace of Craig.
The Craig Centennial AirFest began early Saturday morning at the Craig/Moffat County Airport. Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 4265 started the day with a musical introduction, leading to the Cedar Mountain Lions Club pancake breakfast.
The day continued with flight-themed presentations and activities, including a fly-in by area pilots who brought various plane models of all shapes, sizes and pasts.
Rob Duncan, a representative of Grand Junction's branch of the Commemorative Air Force, buzzed around the outskirts of Craig in a TBM Avenger before landing the torpedo bomber - originally designed for use in World War II - at the AirFest.
"The first Avengers were flown at Pearl Harbor the same day it was attacked," Duncan said. "It was the same model that George (H.W.) Bush flew in the war, and a lot of them were flown at the Battle of Midway in 1942."
The plane, owned by CAF, was not built until 1945, but Duncan said it has had a unique history in its six decades of use.
He said the plane was used by the Royal Canadian Navy, flew during the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and was featured in the Steven Spielberg film, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."
CAF is an international nonprofit organization aimed at maintaining the integrity of such aircraft. Duncan was impressed with the amount of people in the AirFest crowd who expressed interest in the group's cause.
"This was a wonderful show because people really understood the historical importance of what we do," he said. "We're like a museum that goes to the people, instead of the other way around. So many kids came up to us who already knew a lot about World War II planes. It was great to see that they were well-taught."
The children in attendance were too numerous for event organizers to count, although centennial committee member Pam Foster estimated that with their presence, the final count of people at the AirFest was about 1,200.
"It was hard to tell, since kids under 12 were free," Foster said.
The entrance fee for adults was $5.
Besides the sights and sounds of the planes on display, the kids had the chance to make their own aircrafts. Representatives from Wings Over the Rockies - an educational aviation program through the Denver Air & Space Museum - led children in building Styrofoam Goddard rockets, balsa wood gliders and paper helicopters.
"We had at least 200 kids today," Alex Baird, WOR education intern, said. "I love doing activities with them and seeing them so excited."
WOR also had a computer set up with a flight simulator program that allowed users to experience the sensation of a plane take-off from the cockpit. It included scenic views of everywhere from the Yampa Valley to Chicago to New Zealand.
Agents from Colorado Northwestern Community College also had their simulator available, complete with a projector and screen for larger viewing.
Handling planes while they were in the air was left to the more experienced, whether the members of the Yampa Valley Skyscrapers - performing aerial acrobatics with scale model remote control planes - or the pilot of the J-3 Piper Cub, which was available for patrons to ride.
Zephyr Helicopters, of Steamboat Springs, offered a bird's-eye view of Craig for a fee of $50 per rider.
Young went up in the Zephyr with her family of four.
"Taking off was scary, but being up in the air was fun," Young said. "We went over the wave pool, and I saw our house."
Young's father, Eric, said the ride was well worth the price.
"It was a blast," he said.
AirFest event chairman Ray Beck was thrilled with the turnout.
"I couldn't be happier," Beck said. "The guest speakers were great, the vets were honored, and everybody had a good time. It couldn't have been possible without the help of the city, the sponsors, the committees, the emergency volunteers. Everybody."
Beck said he hopes the event will become an annual celebration.
"We've gotten so much good feedback, it seems like a possibility," he said.
As the AirFest wound down at 5:30 p.m., much of the crown adjourned to Loudy-Simpson Park for the centennial barbecue hosted and sponsored by the Northwest Colorado Livestock Producers. With food provided by Brother's Custom Processing, drinks by Pepsi and music by The 1340 Band, the $8-a-plate dinner was a shady sanctuary after the warm day at the airport.
Andy Bockelman can be reached at 875-1796 or firstname.lastname@example.org