“Wings N Wheels” will invade Grimes Field Friday through Sunday as the 49th annual Mid-Eastern Regional Fly-In (MERFI) converges on Urbana.
“An estimated 250-plus general aviation aircraft will be in attendance,” said Airport Manager Lou Driever.
While aircraft will arrive at the airport throughout the day on Friday, the event officially kicks off at 5 p.m. with food vendors and a beer garden opening for service. Admission to MERFI is $5 a day, and children under the age of 12 will be admitted free of charge.
Weather permitting, the aviation-based comedy “Airplane” will be shown on the grounds Friday evening.
On Saturday, MERFI activities begin at 8 a.m. with a pancake breakfast ($7 charge includes a drink) and the opening of the Champaign Aviation Museum, Grimes Flying Lab, Airport Cafe and vendor areas. Also at this time, plane rides will begin for attendees paying to ride in one of two vintage aircraft.
“We have a 1946 J-3 Piper Cub and a 1929 Travel Air open cockpit biplane that will be offering rides all day Saturday and Sunday morning,” said MERFI President Eddie Noble.
Cars join the aircraft
At 9 a.m. on Saturday, registration begins for the second annual Hot Rod and Classic Car Cruise-in.
“Last year we exceeded 100 cars, trucks and motorcycles,” Noble said. “This year we have made additional parking available for a larger group of vehicles.”
Included with the $10 registration fee is the opportunity for cruise-in participants to pose for photos alongside their vehicles in front of a unique backdrop – the “Champaign Gal,” a B-25 Mitchell based at Grimes Field.
For those who enjoy a good race, the fourth annual MERFI 150 Cross Country Air Race, sanctioned by the Sport Air Racing League, takes to the sky at 11 a.m. with the faster aircraft flying a 150-nautical mile course and the slower aircraft racing half that distance.
“Generally, we have pilots from across the U.S. competing, and typically we have about 20-plus aircraft,” Noble said. “Spectators can talk with the pilots before the races begin about their aircraft and racing.”
Following the start of the races, Shades of Grey will provide live music beginning at noon, and the beer garden will open at that time. A hog roast will begin at 2 p.m. and will cost $10 per dinner, which includes two sides and a drink.
“On Saturday, Urbana artist Richard Hughes will be painting live at MERFI, so come watch as Hughes continues his wall-size painting of the (Grimes) Flying Lab,” Noble said, adding Hughes will sell the painting upon completion.
Weather permitting, the evening will close with the showing of the aviation-based documentary “One Six Right,” which Noble said celebrates the unsung hero of aviation – the local airport.
Prior to the 2015 MERFI coming to an end on Sunday at 1 p.m., another pancake breakfast will be held beginning at 8 a.m.
“We’ll have a wide variety of other activities going on (throughout the event) as well, so come on down and join the fun,” Driever said.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.