Air Fest freefalls into the 'Boat

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Veteran Jim Stanko directs a group of American Legion members presenting flags during a tribute to U.S. troops and thier families at Saturday's Wild West Air Fest.

— Flying remote control airplanes can be much safer then flying real airplanes - and just as exciting.

Yampa Valley Skyscrapers member Charlie Williams, who wowed crowds with a demonstration at Saturday's Wild West Air Fest at the Steamboat Springs Airport, said he got into flying remote control airplanes as a child.

"My dad was a pilot, so naturally, he didn't want me to fly real airplanes. He told me if I could fly remote airplanes, that I could fly a real airplane," he said. "So far, I still haven't gotten a real one."

Williams' airplane, a replica of an Edge 540, was the first remote control plane to impress audiences, a feeling Williams enjoys.

"My favorite thing is to fly the plane for people. It's especially fun with the kids," he said.

Jody Anagnos, director of special events for the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, said the Wild West Air Fest is one of the Chamber's favorite events all year because of how family friendly it is.

"This is one of our signature events. : The little kids get so excited about it," she said. "It's really cute to watch how excited they get to see the planes take off and do tricks."

This is the second year the Chamber has been involved in the Wild West Air Fest. This year's Air Fest features more vintage and classic cars on display from the Steamboat Car Club and is better organized, she said.

"I think all around, we're just doing better," she said.

Anagnos said you don't have to be an aviation guru to enjoy the Air Fest and one of the last weekends of the summer.

"If you don't think you'll find something interesting here, you're going to be surprised. You don't have to be an airplane enthusiast to enjoy looking at planes and talking to the pilots," she said. "Everyone is out here because they are excited to share their passions with the public."

Denver residents Gary and Virginia Alexander said they were excited to get away from the Front Range this weekend and participate in the Air Fest.

The Alexanders entered their fully restored 1965 Ford Mustang in the car show.

"This is very nice," Gary Alexander said while sitting on a chair and watching the remote control airplane show. "We wanted to come up and spend the weekend doing something different, and this certainly is different."

Although the Air Fest is a fun way to celebrate aviation and a nice weekend, it also was an opportunity to honor the men and women of the armed forces.

The American Legion presented flags, and four parachutists jumped from a helicopter over the crowds in a tribute to troops serving in combat and their families.

"Hopefully, it gives us a sense of what it is to be an American," announcer Mike Forney said.

The Wild West Air Fest continues from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at the Steamboat Springs Airport.

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