BATESVILLE — The Old Independence Regional Museum will officially open its newest exhibit, titled “Taking to the Sky” on Saturday, Sept. 22.

A huge hang glider mounted high in the main gallery has been loaned and installed by resident Ross Jones.  Large panels about air flight in the region will picture “A Few Who Took to the Sky,” and “Why Fly?”

The program will be held between from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Those who would like to try their hand at flying an aircraft, a computer flight simulator has been installed. By carefully following instructions, a visitor will be able to choose a particular aircraft and fly anywhere in the U.S. and South America.

Vicki Garland, a pilot and one of the exhibit curators, will stand by to assist, according to a news release

Visitors will be able to view film footage of celebrated entertainer Will Rogers landing in the Ramsey Bottoms (near the White River bridge) when he flew into Batesville in 1931. He was here to speak in the Landers Theater on Main Street to help raise relief money for those in need during the Great Depression.

Another video station will invite people to fly with a crop duster as he sprays rice fields, or another option is to watch a herd of cattle being herded by a drone. A showcase of early flight instruments and photos will feature early flight, including some used by George Rider, and a flight helmet used by Paul Rhodes during World War II.

A “hands-on” Arkansas aeronautical chart will allow visitors to try charting a flight course in the days before using GPS, but can still be used today. Instructions will guide those who give it a try. A windsock furnished by the Arkansas Department of Aeronautics will flutter high in the gallery.  

For those who remember folding paper airplanes, there is a place where visitors can try their hands at it and then see if they can sail them through a centrally located hula hoop.

Twyla Gill Wright, exhibit curator, has corresponded with historians in each of the 12 counties included in Old Independence Regional Museum’s service region. “Most of them were eager to send me what they gathered about aviation history in their counties, and even sent photographs,” she said. “I used their information in creating easy to read text, illustrated with their photographs, in a very large scrapbook for visitors to turn through and learn about each county’s flight history.”  

Officials and students from Ozarka College’s Aviation Program will share their experiences as pilots and instructors at 11:15 and at 12:15.

There will be something for all ages in the museum grand opening.

At 11:30, noon and at 12:30 p.m. there will be balsa wood airplane contests with prizes awarded.  Even tiny packets of peanuts, like those given during commercial flights, will be available, along with water and lemonade.

The museum listed those who helped put this exhibit together: Twyla Gill Wright and Vicki Garland were the curators. They were assisted on many levels by Linda Wann, Scott Blackwell, Dennis Wright, Eric and Laura Reed, and Terri Crawford.

The program will be free and open to the public.  Normal museum hours are: Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and $2 for children.  The museum is located at 380 S. Ninth St., between Boswell and Vine Streets in Batesville.  

Old Independence is a regional museum serving a 12-county area: Baxter, Cleburne, Fulton, Independence, Izard, Jackson, Marion, Poinsett, Sharp, Stone, White, and Woodruff.  

Parts of these present-day counties comprised the original Independence County in 1820’s Arkansas territory.