Seaplane fly-in draws pilots and spectators to Greenville area

The steamship Katahdin heads north on Moosehead Lake while a Cessna seaplane glides southward during the International Seaplane Fly-In on Saturday.
Mike Lange | Piscataquis Observer
The steamship Katahdin heads north on Moosehead Lake while a Cessna seaplane glides southward during the International Seaplane Fly-In on Saturday.
Posted Sept. 11, 2013, at 3:28 p.m.

GREENVILLE, Maine — There were plenty of places to grab a snack, a souvenir or even a GPS system at the 40th annual International Seaplane Fly-In in Greenville last weekend. But for those who showed up after 9 a.m., parking spaces were scarce or nonexistent.

“It’s been crazy, and I love it,” said Darralyn Gauvin, secretary of the Fly-In committee. “We had a full boat for the sunset cruise on the Katahdin and a full house for the lobster feed at the airport. It’s been a great week.”

While the weather was iffy for the start of the seaplane pilots’ competition, crowds still packed the grounds around Folsom’s Air Service and Stobie Seaplane Base next to the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife headquarters. Their patience was rewarded, as the sun broke through around 11 a.m. Saturday.

Around 75-80 seaplane pilots competed in the skills contests such as precision landing and “bombing.” The object of bombing was to launch a grapefruit from the plane and drop it as close as possible to a pontoon boat on Moosehead Lake. Some pilots were impressively close to the target, despite some occasional stiff breezes.

But many of the estimated 300 aircraft stayed put at the Greenville Municipal Airport as pilots and their families were content to enjoy the festivities along with the locals and appreciative tourists.

“We came up with this idea 40 years ago to bring people back to Greenville after Labor Day,” said Jack Hofbauer, one of the original organizers of the Fly-In, “and it’s still going strong. I give credit to Duane Lander, Max [Folsom] and many others.”

Hofbauer, 74, has had a pilot’s license since 1957 and has operated Jack’s Air Service on Moosehead Lake for 42 years. This year, he organized a “fly-by” tribute over the lake for two close friends who passed away recently: Louis Hilton of Greenville and Alton Bouchard of Lincoln. “They meant a lot to the Fly-In and to the community.”

Bill Sanderson of Belfast has been coming to the Fly-In since the beginning, but left his Cherokee 140 home this year. “It’s just a reunion for us. Seaplane pilots are like a family,” said Sanderson. “Look how this whole thing started and where it is today. This is a great community, too.”

Amber Lavigne, executive director of the Moosehead Area Chamber of Commerce, said vendors, pilots and tourists started coming into town Wednesday. “We’ve been out straight at the visitor’s center, giving people directions and information,” said Lavigne. “It seems like the turnout is bigger than last year, but the crowds are always spread out so it’s hard to judge.”

In addition to the traditional craft fair at the Moosehead Marine Museum parking lot, vendors were doing brisk business on Lily Bay Road from the Moosehead Center shopping mall to the Bangor Savings Bank parking lot. At the Stobie Seaplane Base field, lines were long at the Greenville Fire Department and Moosehead Area Kiwanis Club food booths and visitors were snapping up souvenirs from vendors set up in the hangar.

Mark Schoening and Doug DeVries, writers for the “Great Arctic Air Adventure” blog probably summarized the International Seaplane Fly-In as well as anyone. “People fly, drive, walk, or canoe to this beautiful little town on the south shore of Moosehead Lake in droves from all over the country to sit on the docks, or in lawn chairs, or on the tops of their RVs, to watch airplanes,” they wrote. “This is my kind of town.”

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