After a three year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Community Airport Day is taking off once again, welcoming Merrittonians to celebrate aviation and come together as a community after a tough few years.

This year, Merritt’s Community Airport Day will feature all the staples of its first event, plus performances by local artists, food trucks, a classic car show, and a special ceremony to show appreciation for those who assisted the City during the November 2021 flooding event. The first annual airport event in 2019 was held as a celebration of a key moment in Merritt aviation history.

“This started about four years ago when a friend of mine, Ray Robinson, heard from the museum that it was going to be the 100th anniversary of the first plane ever to land in Merritt,” said Geoff Scholtens, organizer and volunteer with Community Airport Day.

“He said we should celebrate that, so I said what we should do is a Community Airport Day, because I’m all about community. I’m also a pilot, so I thought we should bring this whole community together to celebrate.”

The 2019 Community Airport Day drew a crowd of roughly 500 people, gathering to celebrate and watch a fly-in, enjoy a community barbeque, and browse the car show. Sponsored by the City of Merritt and its Tourism Merritt program, the event was organized by Scholtens and volunteers.

This time around, the event is still organized by Scholtens, but this time in collaboration with Tourism Nicola Valley. The local tourism non-profit is promoting and sponsoring the event, and will provide a community barbeque in addition to the planned food trucks. Scholtens said the event will be bigger and better than ever, featuring remote controlled aircraft, antique cars, airplanes, two local bands, food trucks, and speeches by dignitaries.

“I think it’s awesome that we can actually get together face to face, see old friends, meet new friends, and be a community again. One of the things is that Merritt doesn’t have many events where people can just come and be who they are,” said Scholtens, a pilot and certified flight instructor.

One of the focuses of this year’s Community Airport Day is showing appreciation for those in aviation who supported the City of Merritt during November’s flooding event. Pilots flew in over 400,000 pounds of supplies needed for flood response and recovery, many of them volunteering their time and resources. Members of the West Coast Pilot Club and BC Airlift Emergency Response Operations (BC AERO) will attend the event to receive this thanks.

“The Mayor and MLA Jackie Tegart are giving out letters and certificates of appreciation to the pilots who flew in back in November. We’ll be sharing our thanks for the help.”

Leading up to the event, Scholtens said his phone has been ringing off the hook with questions about the event. Scholtens has flown since he was 15 years old, and is currently teaching both his children to fly. He added that aviation truly does ‘fly’ in the family.

Community Airport Day will take place on Saturday, July 16, from 10am to 3pm at the Merritt Airport, located at 4510 Airport Road. For more information, or to get involved, call Geoff at 250-936-8250.