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Change at Airport Ends Wings and Wheels Event

  • Paul Boucher of the Lebanon Area Chamber of Commerce surveys the activity at the Wings and Wheels event in West Lebanon, N.H., on September 24, 2016. The chamber hosts the event, in its third year. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 15, 2018

West Lebanon — An annual event that had come to signal the unofficial end of summer in Lebanon has been discontinued, after losing its space at Lebanon Municipal Airport.

Wings and Wheels won’t be held in 2018, and officials are now considering an event to take its place, according to Rob Taylor, executive director of the Lebanon Area Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the annual gathering.

“We traditionally host that event at the Lebanon airport, and Lebanon informed us that the space that we normally have used is going to be leased,” Taylor said last week.

“We’re kind of losing our location, and so my board voted to let that one go,” he said. “It’s bittersweet. We really enjoyed that event.”

Lebanon Airport Manager Rick Dyment confirmed last week that the city is hoping to lease a section of the airport known as the executive ramp. If a deal goes through, he said, the area wouldn’t be available to the Chamber of Commerce.

Dyment has begun preliminary talks with Granite Air Center, according to the city manager’s May 2 report to the City Council. The company provides refueling, hangar storage, aircraft maintenance and other services at the airport.

Granite Air co-owner Grag Soho declined to comment on the talks when reached on Monday.

The first Wings and Wheels was held in 2014, and attracted more than 1,500 people, according to organizers.

At the time, the Chamber of Commerce advertised the gathering as a celebration of the city, and a way to showcase the airport, which has been criticized by some as a financial burden to taxpayers.

“You have the balloon festival in Quechee, the pumpkin festival in Keene,” said Paul Boucher, then-president and CEO of the chamber, during the inaugural Wings and Wheels. “We don’t have anything like that in Lebanon.”

During the event’s four-year history, it became a welcome send off to the summer complete with classic cars, food vendors and helicopter and plane rides.

“That’s too bad about the airshow. It drew a lot of people and was a good family event,” Boucher said on Monday. “I’m just sorry that they’re not holding it.”

The area’s Experimental Aircraft Association was among the groups who attended Wings and Wheels all four years, and would sign children up for free flights as part of its Young Eagles program.

While the group will miss the gathering, other opportunities are being planned to get kids flying, said Braxton Freeman, the association’s local president.

“We’re going to be actively engaged in promoting aviation in out local schools,” Freeman said, adding there’s plans to soon take Hartford High School and Mid Vermont Christian School students out flying.

There’s also talk of the association holding its own event at Lebanon Municipal Airport, Freeman said.

“We’re trying to put something together,” he said. “It’s a work in progress, but we’re definitely interested.”

Taylor said chamber members have already begun discussing a replacement event, although he’s not sure something will be held this year.

“To plan something big takes a lot of time,” he said.

Instead, Taylor said, the chamber is assisting with several events already planned this summer, including the Rotary Club of Lebanon’s Brewfest on Aug. 18, the city’s June Food Truck Festival and the upcoming bike rodeo.

“While we won’t be doing the Wings and Wheels, we’re certainly active with other events,” he said.

The chamber is also considering holding a public event alongside its October annual meeting to make up for the cancelation, Taylor said.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.

Correction

The Rotary Club of Lebanon's Brewfest is scheduled to be held on Aug. 18 this summer. An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect date for the event.