Growing air show rocks the weekend

Long history in Madras

by: Photo by Tom Brown - Pilot Roger Kelsay, owner of Premier Jets Inc., of Hillsboro, flies a MiG-17 Russian fighter jet during the Budweiser Airshow of the Cascades on Saturday, Aug. 25. The two-day annual event drew about 10,000 people.

Air shows have a long history in Madras -- from the 20-plane fly-ins at a local ranch to the Budweiser Airshow of the Cascades, which drew about 10,000 people last weekend.
   The Aug. 24-25 event, held at the Madras Municipal Airport, attracted high-profile aerial acts and unusual aircraft, as well as a classic car show, stunt motorcyclists, and other entertainment.
   Rick Allen, treasurer of the air show committee, said on Tuesday that sponsorships raised about $55,000 for the event, which costs about $70,000 to put on. With ticket sales -- not yet tallied -- the event is expected to have turned a tidy profit to continue to expand the show.
   Allen praised the sponsors -- title sponsor Budweiser, and presenting sponsor Gary Gruner Chevrolet, Pontiac and GMC for allowing the air show to take off without a hitch.
   "Gary Gruner was the first large sponsor to step up and we built the show off of him, and then adding Budweiser really made it all work," said Allen.
   Through the "Here's to our Heroes" campaign, Budweiser allowed veterans to enter the event for free. Veteran attendance had not been figured by Tuesday afternoon.
   The origins of the event date back over 30 years, to when Ron Ochs, of the Willowdale area, now a retired cattle rancher, would invite fellow pilots to land on an irrigated hay field in front of his house. The pilots would usually stay at the Ochs' cabin, east of his house.
   "It was just a little deal where there would be 20 or so antique airplanes," said Ochs, who was trained as a fighter pilot in the Korean War in 1953. "People would drive by Highway 97 and see all the biplanes lined up here. On Sunday morning, we would invite people from town out."
   Every year after the fly-in, his wife, Laurice, would serve dinner to attendees. "The last time, we served 103 people," he said.
   About a decade ago, Ochs said, former airport manager Don Mobley started the event at the Madras airport, and it has continued under the guidance of an air show committee and Rob Berg, current airport manager.
   "I would say that it's been pretty much bigger every year, in large measure because of guys like Rick Allen and Tom Brown (chairman)," said Ochs. "The Madras airport is a well-kept secret; the runways are long, and they're good."
   "It does a lot for the Madras airport, putting it on the map," said Ochs, adding that the Bergs are doing a great job promoting the show. "It brings quite a bit of business to town."
   Some of the pilots still stay at the Ochs' cabin. This year, those included longtime friend Bud Granley, of Bellevue, Wash., who flew a T-6 Harvard trainer, and "Super Dave" Mathieson, of Alberta, Canada, who flew an MX2 aerobatic aircraft.
   Mathieson, who was new to the show this year, earned his nickname at his very first air show. "My control column disconnected right on takeoff," he said.
   For 52 minutes, Mathieson used the doors on his Cessna 180 to steer the plane back to a safe landing. "I opened the left door so I could turn right, and pushed on the right door to make it go left," he said.
   The frightening start has done nothing to deter Mathieson, who performs in about 15 to 20 air shows a year, all over North America and Mexico.
   Mathieson was impressed with the hospitality at the local show. "Everyone was really helpful; they took care of everything above and beyond what was expected," he said, calling the air show "outstanding."
   Will he be back next year? "You betcha!" he responded.
   Mary Spaid, of Bend, has attended the air show with husband and family for past several years. "We started when our son, a pilot, flew for the Central Oregon Skydivers, but he moved away and we have continued to come."
   "We have an RV and park up there and enjoy the festivities and family time," said Spaid, who set up a sales booth for the first time this year. "We come up on Thursday and don't leave until Sunday."
   The steady pace of the event is attractive to Spaid, who enjoys air shows. "It's on a smaller scale and it keeps your attention all the time," she said. "We've already made reservations for an RV space for next year."
   Joe Krenowicz, executive director of the Madras-Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, said that there were more vendors than usual this year, and "all the vendors indicated that they were very successful over the two-day event."
   "We had a fair amount already sign up for next year," said Krenowicz.