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Ticket to Ride

BowmanFest Takes Flight

Writer / Rick Redding
Photography Provided

BowmanFestIt was just over 100 years ago when A.H. Bowman went into business, setting up shop on Taylorsville Road, primarily to operate an aerial photography business. That site became Bowman Field, a pristine 426 acres that has seen neighborhoods and businesses spring up at its edges in the intervening decades. 

And it has seen its share of aviation history, including the area’s first commercial flight (delivering air mail) in 1928, and in 1931 the first commercial passenger flight from Louisville, by Continental Airlines. Later Eastern Airlines and Trans World Airlines operated at Bowman, until those operations moved to Standiford Field in 1947.

In the 1940s Bowman was known as the busiest airport in the country, serving as a training facility for American troops during World War II. It was even in the movies, serving as the backdrop for the film “Goldfinger” in the early 1960s. 

Today it serves as a local home for private aircraft and is the place where many aspiring pilots get their wings. 

It’s unlikely Bowman could imagine the site today, especially the upcoming spectacle of thousands of people racing down the airport’s runways.

The IPA 5K on the Runway (presented by the Independent Pilots Association) is just one of the highlights of BowmanFest, a celebration of the historic aviation hub that will include displays of historic aircraft, airborne military maneuvers and plenty of entertainment. 

BowmanFestNo one, of course, enjoys the idea of a delay when it comes to airports, but 2022 will be the first opportunity for Bowman officials to hold a 100th anniversary celebration. For the past two years, the event has been postponed due to COVID-19-related issues, according to Pat MacDonald, who leads the group producing the event. 

For the record, Bowman Field’s official opening date was May 12, 1920, when Bowman and partner Robert H. Gast began operations there.

“We started this celebration to invite the public to come on-site and experience aviation firsthand,” says MacDonald, who grew up nearby and has been involved in activities at Bowman for many years. He says the two-day BowmanFest drew 25,000 people throughout two days in 2019. However, the 100-year celebration should be the biggest one to date, he says.

More than 1,000 runners are expected to dash down the runways as part of the IPA 5K on the Runway race, which includes opportunities to sprint down Bowman’s historic runways. The course takes runners on a unique path around the site, past live plane displays and interactive family activities. Because it is one of the flattest, fastest courses in the city, many individuals will be shooting for personal bests. The course has only been used once before, in 2019. 

Runners and walkers can sign up for $30, or $18 for those 15 and under, up until race time, with $5 from each registration being donated to the Kosair Charities Pediatric NeuroRecovery fund. There will be awards for age-group champions, and all participants are able to stick around for the BowmanFest activities for free.

After the race, the real fun begins with a display of rare vintage aircraft and warplanes from all over the United States, military vehicles and equipment, military memorabilia, past-war educational exhibits, and plenty of airplanes to see and touch. 

There will even be a spectacular air show featuring daring pilots and extraordinary aircraft. Though it won’t have the show-business aspect of the city’s annual April event, it will, in many ways, rival the city’s famed Thunder Over Louisville military aircraft demonstration. It will include amazing aerobatics and stunts in view of everyone at Bowman. 

BowmanFestAdmission prices for the family-friendly event are $50 for a family of four, $20 per person, and $15 for senior citizens and kids under 15 years old. Kids under 5 will be admitted for free. In addition, veterans and active military personnel get in free. Parking is also free. 

BowmanFest, presented by the Bowman Field Foundation, will feature more than 30 military and civilian airplanes, along with vintage cars, motorcycles and military vehicles. Also, rides will be available aboard such planes as a B-25, a WACO biplane, a World War II Beechcraft C-45, plus helicopters and modern aircraft. 

While the event is all about aviation, there will be plenty of refreshments from food trucks and local vendors. 

“This is a great opportunity for the public to experience aviation, both from the past and present, and enjoy one of the city’s real treasures,” says MacDonald, who helped to create the event and oversees its operation.  

For more info, visit bowmanaviationfest.com.

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