Over the three day weekend after Thanksgiving we celebrated having been open for 15 years!
Our initial Grand Opening Gala was on on Veterans Day, November 11, 1995 and included a “thousand of my closest friends.” People still talk about our amazing opening party where everyone dressed up in WWII Period Formal Dress or Black Tie. We laid out the red carpet with searchlights, guard gates and re-enactors, Paparazzi photographers when you arrived to valet your car, a champagne reception, tour of the immersion environments, flight-themed laser light show, my welcoming speech, night aerobatics with pyro coming off the wings, fireworks, USO style Big Band, amazing food and drink, an air raid siren with simulated bombing and strafing, a French Cafe with decadent desserts, and then a Rock & Roll Band until the wee hours! We opened to the public several weekends later after we recouperated.
To help celebrate our 15-year Anniversary we flew 15 different airplanes over the weekend, flying five different airplanes per day. We also had many things themed around the “15th” for our guests and drew a raffle ticket for a great prize every time I flew one of the planes. One group from the United Kingdom got in free, got a free lunch, AND won one of the raffle ticket prizes! I told them they needed to buy a lotto ticket as well!
While I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplised so far in 15 years, which I now see as laying the foundation for our future. I’m even more excited about the next 15, which will be the implementation of our future and a fun, creative and exciting time. Starting in 2011, we will hit the ground running to revamp our existing product and facility even more. We plan to re-theme all the old exhibits, add new ones, as well as add new tours and shows.
I thought it would be fun to share with you the 15 different airplanes I flew over the three days and in their order –
Friday #1 – Piper L-4
Friday #2 – Norde Stampe
Friday #3 – Stinson Tri-Motor
Friday #4 – Grumman TBM
Friday #5 – Grumman Wildcat
Saturday #1 – Bucker Bestmann
Saturday #2 – Polikarpov Po-2
Saturday #3 – Ford Tri-Motor
Saturday #4 – North American AT-6D
Saturday # 5 – North American P-51C
Sunday #1 – Fiesler Storch
Sunday #2 – Avro Cadet
Sunday #3 – Travelair 4000
Sunday #4 – Grumman Duck
Sunday #5 – North American P-51D with Aircraft Department celebrating with Champagne!
With Legoland opening at the old Cypress Gardens site next fall, we hope to ride on the coat tails of their marketing efforts to bring more tourists to Polk County. Other happenings in the works that will help our long-term success will be the widening of our intersection at Interstate 4, Exit 44, as well as the initial construction of a High Speed Rail and stop down the center of the I-4 corridor. Orlando to Tampa was THE #1 location for government support of a High Speed Rail System in the United States and the stars are beginning to line up for Orlampa!
We are all having fun developing Fantasy of Flight into something that does not yet exist. Our future product is all about pushing our boundaries and reaching beyond ourselves and to get to where we need to go, we will all need to do it ourselves in spades! In the end though, it’s not about getting to the destination . . . but the process and experience of getting there! And while I would love to have it all done tomorrow, I realize it’s not my timetable and it will happen in its own time. Not a problem for me as I’m doing what I love . . . and love what I’m doing!
Keep an eye on us and visit us from time to time . . . we’re going to do great things!