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Wright Patterson marks 100 years at Huffman Prairie celebration

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base marks its 100th anniversary Saturday on the field where the Wright brothers soared in box-like planes made of fabric, wire and wood to perfect powered flight.

The Miami Valley military base charts its lineage to the creation of the Army Air Service’s Wilbur Wright Field and McCook Field in 1917 in Dayton.

The Air Force and the National Park Service have teamed up to mark the historic century milestone with the Great Wright Brothers Aero Carnival at Huffman Prairie Flying Field, which today is part of Wright-Patterson.

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“We’re hoping that people get a greater appreciation for what the Wrights did and the significance of Huffman Prairie Flying Field, not just as an historic field for the Wright brothers, but also as the forerunning of what is today Wright-Patterson Air Force Base,” said Robert W. Petersen, a National Park Service ranger and one of the organizers of the celebration.

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The annual family-oriented celebration, expanded this year to mark the base’s centennial, has scheduled civilian plane flyovers, parachute jumps, historic aircraft displays, hay rides and a litany of attractions on the historic field, organizers said.

“Part of what the Aero Carnival is doing is highlighting the time period of the Wright brothers, but also the changes that have taken place in aviation particularly since the time of the Wrights,” Petersen said.

Huffman Prairie is where Orville and Wilbur Wright taught themselves to fly in 1904-05 after their first flight on the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk, N.C. in 1903. And it’s where the world’s first pilots learned the craft between 1910 and 1916, Petersen said.

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The Aero Carnival can be reached via Ohio 444 through Wright-Patterson Gate 16A, near the entrance to Twin Base Golf Course. Follow the signs to reach the prairie, organizers said. The free event is scheduled from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“We’d like for (attendees) to take away the fact that Wright-Patterson is 100 years old … and we think it’s the most important air base, especially with all the organizations we have here,” said Paul Woodruff, Wright-Patterson cultural resource manager.

Saturday’s forecast calls for fall-like conditions, according to WHIO-TV meteorologist McCall Vrydaghs. Morning temperatures will start in the 50s and rise to a high of 70 degrees, roughly 10 degrees below normal. “Although cool, it will be a bright, sunny day from start to finish,” she said.

The Aero Carnival isn’t the only upcoming celebration to mark the base’s century milestone.

On Oct. 5, organizers will commemorate McCook Field’s 100th anniversary with sky divers, an aerial parade, musical performances and a historical marker dedication at the old site. The event, at 444 N. Bend Boulevard, is set to start at 1:30 p.m.

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