The Boeing 747 pictured above was one of the many planes on display at the Centennial Air Tour, Saturday. (Chaunte’l Powell Photo)
After much anticipation, the Centennial Air Show touched down in Roswell Saturday. The event was jam-packed with activities for all ages.
The day began with static displays of a variety of aircraft. Among the planes visitors had the chance to board were the CV-22 Osprey, Elvis Presley’s Jet Star and the gigantic Boeing 747. The Walker Aviation Museum was open and information tables from ENMU-Roswell, NMMI and Alamogordo Space Museum were set up during this time as well. Elvis impersonator Freddy G entertained the crowd singing some of Presley’s greatest hits before posing for pictures later on in the day.
The NMMI Color Guard and band presented the flags and played the national anthem during the opening ceremony before Mayor Del Jurney read a proclamation commemorating the event. Guest speakers Joyce Woods and Cathy Myers were introduced and ad-dressed the crowd. Jurney said the former Walker Air Force Base has been a staple in the community, and the city is fortunate to still have it.
“It was a jewel when it was being used as an Air Force base,” he said. “The fact that we still have it today, it’s a jewel for our commerce and our economy and who we are as a community today and it’ll be an important factor in the future, too.”
Jennifer Brady, air center manager, said she brought the idea to the Walker Museum when the New Mexico Pilots Association made it known they wanted to travel to different communities. Her rationale was to generate exposure for the museum, as well as inform the community of the rich history of the Air Force base. She feels that everyone’s efforts were not in vain.
“I’m very pleased. I’m excited,” she said. “We were leery at first, especially with the rain (Friday), but everything is coming together perfectly. We have a great turnout just as we had hoped.”
Roswell resident Hervey Gilliland came out to see what the tour had to offer and was not disappointed. Having served in the Air Force for several years, he has memories of the former base, though he was stationed at Cannon Air Force Base in Clovis. He said Walker’s legacy should be preserved for posterity.
Larry Knadle has lived in Roswell for 71 years and also has memories of Walker Air Force Base. He recalled growing up and becoming close friends with children whose parents were stationed at the base. He said after he got married and moved back to Roswell, he opened Knadle’s, a clothing and shoe store in the downtown area, and employed many wives of the men working on the base during the 1960s. He remembers the heyday of the base, as well as the devastation the city felt when it closed and almost a third of the population left.
“It’s nice that the base is utilized,” he said. “And now that we’ve lived through it, I’m glad the Air Force is gone, because we’d always have (the threat of closure) hanging over our head. So it’s behind us now and I’m glad we could move forward.”