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— CHEROKEE CITY - Don and Lorrie Amos again had friends over for a Saturday lunch, but instead of driving down the lane to their home along the Arkansas-Oklahoma border, a good number of their guests landed on Cherokee Strip - the couple's private air field.

About 30 planes - a few less than last year due to overcast skies and threats of rain - and two helicopters dropped in, most coming from within a hundred-mile radius in the four-state area. They flew in before noon Saturday, landed on the farm's air strip, enjoyed a good meal and fellowship with other flyers and then took off again, doing a flyby over the air strip and returning back to their home strips.

The event was called "The Third Annual Cherokee Strip Fly-In," the privately-owned strip being named after nearby Cherokee City and bearing the well-known name of the 1893 land run.

Don said he and Lorrie decided to have a fly-in two years ago and had about 20 planes show up. Last year the numbers doubled. Though weather conditions kept some away this year, attendance at the event was still good.

"We cooked about 180 hamburgers," Don said, "and served close to that many. Based on the calls I got, if it hadn't been for the weather, I think we would have had so many planes we wouldn't have had room to park them all," he said.

As it was, Don still kept plenty busy on the radio keeping track of planes coming and going, but he was prepared for more.

In addition to those flying in, many did come by car and truck to share in the meal and watch the aircraft landing and taking off again. The Gentry Fire Department sent a fire truck and EMTs to the farm, just in case they might be needed.

"It was truly a community get-together," Don said.

"People from all over the area came out."

The Amos family served hamburgers, hot-dogs, beans, and homemade pies and deserts prepared by the Wooden Spoon Restaurant and Marci Nichols.

T-shirts again promoted the Cherokee Strip event with the words "3rd Annual Fly-In" on the front and "It's wonderful to climb the liquid mountains of the sky, behind me and before me is God and I have no fears" on the back.

Why a fly-in at Cherokee City? "I enjoy flying," Don said, and he enjoys seeing his fellow pilots.

Don had an interest in flying and learned to fly five years ago, taking lessons at the same time as his daughter Melanie. Father and daughter studied together and created a bond through their shared interest.

Don has built a grass air strip on his farm and has a Cessna and a Maule to take him airborne. Melanie also has her own Cessna.

And not only does Don attend other local fly-in events, he has flown to the air show in Oshkosh, Wis., numerous times. In July of 2006, Don and Melanie flew Don's Cessna to the air show and Melanie landed the plane on the strip there.

Don said he was taken under the wing of other local flyers attending the event and has made many close friends through his love of flying. That was again evident at Cherokee City on Saturday, as his many flying friends visited and talked with him.

Melanie took her love of flying to another level. She is a part of the Air National Guard and has served as a crew chief, something which has made her parents proud. In January she is to be deployed to Afghanistan for five months.

On Saturday, she and Jimmy Roberts were taking children and families up for complementary rides on their small planes - something the children very much enjoyed. The lines of riders kept them busy.

Lorrie isn't a licensed pilot - yet - but still loves to fly, Don said. She has learned to land and take off.

Don's son-in-law Clint Osborne - married to Don's daughter Amanda - is in the Air Force and started taking flying lessons as well. He is currently stationed in Italy and hopes to complete his lessons and obtain his license after he and Amanda return to the States.

Even though the day was less than clear and sunny, the good food, good friends and flying made the day a good one at Cherokee Strip. And, yes, Don and Lorrie plan to do it all over again next year!

News, Pages 14 on 09/23/2009

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