Archive for Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Fly-over inspires crowd at Tonganoxie Days

June 18, 2003

When the Missing Man Formation of T-38 jets roared Saturday over VFW Park, a sensation engulfed Carl LeVota.

A veteran who served from 1941-45 in the Ninth Army Air Corps, LeVota stood with fellow veterans as the formation's four planes came and went through the blue sky over Tonganoxie for Flag Day activities.

"Anytime you see a missing plane signaling a dead soldier, any soldier will react to it," said LeVota, a Kansas City, Kan., native.

The air show put the finishing touches on a short ceremony that included the naming of area soldiers lost in conflict signified by the ringing of a bell and the singing of the national anthem.

Precisely at high noon, those jets were scheduled to fly over the park. According to organizer Jim Morey's accurate watch -- set to the atomic clock at the Naval Observatory -- the mission was accomplished.

Morey looked down at his wrist when the jets flew over. The second hand had hit 12.

"There they were," Morey said. "They went across at 1,000 feet at 300 miles per hour as he had advertised."

Morey referred to Capt. Ryan Craycraft, an instructor in the 25th Fighter Training Squadron at Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Okla., who made the fly-over possible.

After much paperwork for both Morey and Craycraft, the new ceremony for Tonganoxie Days took shape.

Morey, who served as a Navy aerial photographer in the 1950s, wanted a new activity for Tonganoxie Days.

"Back in the early planning of the festival, people were asking what could we do to make it a little more exciting and punch it up," Morey said.

After contacting military officials, Morey's request for a fly-over was on the Department of Defense Web site. Within two days, Craycraft answered.

The flight instructor picked the T-38s and contacted Morey.

Then on Saturday, Craycraft called one last time to make sure everything was ready to go.

"It's a beautiful Kansas day," Morey told Craycraft. "Come on down."

Actually, that's something LeVota plans to do in the future -- by land, of course.

After seeing the park for the first time, LeVota was ready to bring his great-grandsons from Kansas City, Kan.

"I think they have one of the greatest setups in Tonganoxie," LeVota said.

The park has played host to various functions, including Saturday's annual car show and a well attended Vietnam wall memorial in 1996.

Now Morey will work to bring another flyover to next year's Tonganoxie Days.

"I think unfortunately, I'm the expert now," Morey said with a chuckle. "We'll try it again next year.

"It was just a great experience for everybody. We had a good time."

Cars, old and new

Cougars, Cobras, Bugs and Mustangs roamed Saturday in Tonganoxie.

But this was no motley crew zoo.

Instead of paws, hooves and scales, these "animals" rested on four rubber tires.

The car models were just a few of those on display at VFW Park in Tonganoxie for the annual Country Cruisers Car Show.

With nearly 200 hot rods on display, the show attracted a wide range of automobile enthusiasts.

From a Volkswagen Beetle with license plates reading "UBUGME" to a sleek black Chevrolet with personalized "RUNAWAY" tags, many treasures and hobbies for car owners were on display at Tonganoxie Days.

Zach Sanders, 19, Tonganoxie, broke into the car show routine after attending one himself with his parents four years ago in Lawrence.

A light blue metallic 1972 Ford Mustang was for sale that day. Sanders' parents purchased it for him and he now enters the 'Stang regularly in shows himself.

"I bought this exactly as it is," Sanders said.

Sanders' father, Jim, had a Pontiac Fiero at the show, while Zach also had an oxford white 1992 Ford Taurus SHO at the show. But on Saturday, he was looking to the sell the vehicle, to which he has added exhausts and new wheels.

Despite wanting to expand his collection, Sanders said he didn't have the funds for such a venture.

"If I really had my way, I would add to it, but I can't afford that," Sanders said.

Bikes for a cause

The annual motorcycle show near the Earl Parsons Bridge had about 20 motorcycles lined up for passers-by to view.

This year's show, however, had special meaning for organizer Mary Bass.

Because she recently lost her grandson, Keith Dunavin, because of complications with cystic fibrosis, Bass dedicated the event to him.

"We didn't know if we were going to do the show, but Keith would have wanted us to," Bass said.

Keith, who was awaiting a lung transplant at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., died last month at the age of 16.

The Keith Dunavin Memorial Ride-In Motorcycle Show attracted bikers primarily from Leavenworth County and, in the process, helped keep Keith's memory alive. Donations from the event were taken to help cover Keith's funeral costs.

Bass, and her husband, Lucky, have been motorcycle enthusiasts for some time, making the hobby a family affair. The interest also led them to relationships with Christian Motorcycle Association members, who also assisted in the event.

In past years, Bass said that the show usually attracted between 10 and 14 bikes, so this year's show certainly provided an increase.

But whether the family will continue with the show isn't quite certain, Bass said.

"We haven't decided about doing it next year," Bass said. "If we'll do it for him or do it as a family."

BBQ at its best

The smells of barbecue wafted Saturday through the Leavenworth County Fair-grounds. But this was no summertime picnic at the park.


With 33 teams vying for the title of Tonganoxie Days Barbecue Blowout champion, Uncle Ernie's Swine Dining won the event, beating out Fat Daddy's and Smokin' Salmons.

Sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, contestants competed in four categories -- ribs, chicken, beef brisket and pork shoulder/Boston butt. The grand champion earned $750 and the reserve champion $500 for the contest.

Remaining barbecue participants are listed in the order they finished overall. Those teams are Squeal of Approval, T's Smokin' Pit, Smokin' Dads, Mel's BBQ, Doughboy's Dream, PDT, Ol' Style Smokers, Swine Tingling BBQ, The Half Chickens, Parrothead Smokers, KC Jakes, Hot Meat Smokers, Daniel's BBQ, BSE, Smokie Green, Sparkle Plenty, Brothers and Sons, Hometown BBQ, Dying to Smoke #2, Crippled Chickens, Premier Smokers, Porkaholics, Motley Crew, We B Smoking, River Bank Smokers, The Licks, Grease Fire, A House Divided, Bum Steers and Spit Five Smokers.

And the winner is ...

Tonganoxie Days kicked off with a few crownings Friday.

With Annie's Country Jubilee as the venue, four youths were crowned in the Miss Tonganoxie pageant.

In the Tiny Miss Tonganoxie pageant for infants age 0-23 months, MaKayla Logan was named the winner, while Kaley Somers won the Petite Miss Tonganoxie (2-6 years).

Girls in the 7-12 year range competed in the Junior Miss Tonganoxie, which Haley Ford won. And Jenna Bradley was named Miss Tonganoxie, claiming the No. 1 spot for girls age 13-19.

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