(ran SS edition of METRO & STATE)
The 28th annual Sun 'n Fun Fly-In opened Sunday with visits from Charles Lindbergh's grandson and a reproduction of theSpirit of St. Louis airplane.
Under picture-perfect skies, a big crowd enjoyed the annual air show at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport in Polk County.
It began with a competition of hot-air balloonists. "It was just striking," said Dave Higdon, a spectator. The race was won by Steve Stokoe, a Tampa firefighter.
The day was highlighted by patriotism, featuring five parachutists from the U.S. Aerobatic Team decked out in red, white and blue.
About 11 a.m., Kermit Weeks and Erik Lindbergh landed in separate planes. Weeks, the owner of Fantasy of Flight near Polk City, landed in a reproduction of the Spirit of St. Louis. Charles Lindbergh flew the original from New York to Paris in 1927. The reproduction will be on display at Sun 'n Fun until today or Wednesday.
Weeks is working on shipping the reproduction to France for the anniversary of Lindbergh's 1927 cross-Atlantic solo flight.
To commemorate the flight, Lindbergh's 37-year-old grandson, Erik Lindbergh, will fly a Lancair Columbia 300 from San Diego to St. Louis later this month, and from St. Louis to New York. He'll leave New York on May 1 and arrive in Paris a day later.
The Sunday opening is traditionally the busiest day for Sun 'n Fun. An estimated 645,000 people visited last year. The air show runs through Saturday. For information, call (863) 644-2431.