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Festival of Flight Plans Taking Off In Fayetteville

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FAYETTEVILLE — Fayetteville is getting ready to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers' historic first flight. Like their plane, it is taking a lot of effort to get Festival of Flight off the ground.

In 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright navigated man's first powered flight of 120 feet from Kitty Hawk. It was a 12-second experience that changed the world.

One hundred years later, North Carolina is planning a big celebration.

Festival of Flight is an 11-day event leading up to Memorial Day 2003. The celebration is expected to cost millions, but the payoff could make Fayetteville bigger and better than ever.

"I don't know of anything any larger that Fayetteville's ever experienced," says organizer Gary Smith.

The huge production will focus on military flight and education. Fayetteville's Crown Coliseum will be the headquarters for many exhibits.

Plans are in the works to build a large, moving sculpture which is suspended between two cell phone towers. A Web cam will allow people to experience the feeling of flight via the Internet. A new amphitheater will be unveiled on opening day. Air shows and the release of hot air balloons will take place throughout the week.

The festivities will wrap up with what organizers hope is the largest Memorial Day parade in the country.

"Major celebrities [will be] coming in that have an interest in flight. We hope to have floats of national stature from national companies. We're in conversation with people like Disney," Smith says.

All of this is expected to cost about $15 million. Many say it will have a huge, short-term economic impact on the city.

An estimated one million people are expected to visit Fayetteville during the festival. Organizers are also hoping for long-term benefits with national exposure and more companies looking at Fayetteville as a place to relocate or expand.

Aviation began on a cold day in Kitty Hawk 100 years ago, but organizers say Fayetteville is very much in its future.

"With the military, this is where all the technology is being used with flight and high-tech flight. All of this will be displayed all the way from the beginning of flight all the way to space," says Smith.

Festival of Flight celebrations will be held across the state, includingKitty Hawk.


Ericka Lewis, Reporter
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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