Plainville residents treated to Wings and Wheels

Sunday, July 1, 2012 9:54 PM EDT

By Erica Schmitt
Staff Writer

Plainville residents hope Sunday’s inaugural fly-in and car show ‘Wings and Wheels’ was memorable enough to become as celebrated as their annual Hot Air Balloon Festival.

More than 5,000 people came to the event, held at the Robertson Airport on Johnson Avenue. While many explored the 450-plus classic cars on display, others chilled out with ice cream, barbecue sandwiches and snacks from local restaurants, and the luckiest navigated the skies above in small aircraft and helicopters.

The brainchild of three residents and friends — Mike Turcotte, Town Council Vice Chairman Scott Saunders and Jeff Adams — the day went to benefit The Petit Family Foundation and the Plainville Community Food Pantry.

“Jeff and Mike had an idea about putting on a car show in Plainville for charity. They asked me to work with them to help make it a town-wide event,” Saunders explained. “As a group with our wives (Daphne Adams, Coreen Turcotte, and Andrea Saunders), we approached the Plainville Aviation Commission for permission to use Robertson Airport.

The commission suggested we work with the Plainville Historical Society to include the Plainville Stadium Racers, and the event kept growing into what it is today.

Without Jeff and Mike’s idea, and the hard work of many people, this event would not be taking place,” Saunders continued, adding that help also came from Dave Champagne of the Bristol Auto Club, Lynn Michaud and Brian O’Leary of Interstate Aviation, Neal Witkin and many sponsors, including J. Timothy’s Taverne.

“We decided since the airport was recently purchased by the town a year or two ago, it would be a way to get more people to spend time here,” Adams added. “The Petits are very giving to this community, and the food pantry, which helps many families in town, has been short in donations. It’s also about bringing people together over the love of cars and planes and showcasing Robertson Airport.”

Flying aficionados buzzed around the runways and hangar area up the hill from the car show, which featured some unique entries from the Mustang Club of Connecticut and the old Tinty’s Stadium Club. Trophies were awarded by both sponsors and attendees, with the most votes “by a landslide” going to a 1932 Lincoln Convertible Roadster.

“We’re overwhelmed by how many cars turned out,” laughed Ron Case, a member of the Bristol Auto Club, the group who facilitated the car show. “But having the planes enhances the day because it brings a different crowd in,” he added. “It’s both plane and car enthusiasts intermixed.”

A musician and a pilot also bridged the hobby gap Sunday.

Plainville-based cover band D2 played the stage beside the runway and guitarist Dean Cardinale was approached by Civil Air Patrol pilot Keith Hall, who – when he’s not navigating the skies - dabbles in the keyboard and acoustic guitar.

Young and old, too. Airport Manager Bill O’Leary, who is also the president and director of operations at Interstate Aviation, invited his 15 grandchildren to serve as volunteers. “Some of us work here now, but we all grew up here. He took us on plane rides when we were little,” explained Lexie Michaud, a Meriden resident.

And that’s why the group didn’t mind sitting back and signing others up for flying fun, like 12-year-olds Justin Rigsby and Mark Krawiec, both students at Chippens Hill Middle School in Bristol.

“We come up here a lot to hang out and watch the planes land,” Krawiec said as he and Rigsby were awaiting their third flight of the day. “You get a bird’s eye view of everything and it’s a great thrill,” he added.

The trio of friends who began what they hope will become a town tradition were very happy with how the first “Wings and Wheels” show turned out.

“We found a few things we’d like to do better, but we’ll let the dust settle and regroup next year; but by all accounts it’s been a huge success,” said Adams.

Erica Schmitt can be reached at (860) 225-4601, ext. 210,