Fantasy of Flight, Central Florida's premier aviation attraction, is celebrating National Black History month this month in a memorable way by kicking off its Fourth Annual Legends & Legacies Symposium Series with a visit from famed World War II heroes, the Tuskegee Airmen, as well as a student essay contest honoring the aviators' leadership, excellence, advocacy and determination (LEAD).
During this unforgettable, three-day limited engagement event called "They Dared to Fly," the Tuskegee Airmen, the nation's first African-American military aviators, will share their personal stories of what it was like to serve as a pilot in the military during segregated America. Three Tuskegee Airmen will be appearing including Leo Gray, 91, Ft. Lauderdale, who served as a consultant on the recently released Lucas "Red Tail" film, as well as Daniel Keel, 89, Leesburg and George Hardy, 88, Sarasota. Of the original group of nearly 1,000 trained pilots and 15,000 ground personnel that made up the Tuskegee Airmen, roughly 50 pilots and 200 ground crew are alive today.
"They Dared to Fly" will be held Thurs., Feb. 9 through Sat., Feb. 11 and will feature two open-forum/question-and-answer sessions each day at 10:30 am and 2:30 pm followed by meet/greet autograph signings with several of the original Tuskegee Airmen. Symposium events are included in the attraction's general admission price and are free for annual pass holders.
In tribute to the Tuskegee, students in grades 4-12 are invited to participate in the "They Dared to Fly" essay contest. Using the principles of LEAD (leadership, excellence, advocacy and determination), students should describe how the Tuskegee Airmen achieved success or describe how they can use these values to achieve a personal goal of their own. Entries will be judged on overall content, including spelling, grammar, punctuation, legibility and penmanship (as applicable).
Prizes will be awarded to the first, second and third place winners in each grade category (grades 4-5, 6-8 and 9-12). First place will be awarded $100; second place, $75 and third place, $50. Entries must be postmarked or hand delivered prior to 5 p.m. on or before February 20, 2012. Winners will be announced March 16, 2012. Additional rules apply; for more information, visit www.fantasyofflight.com.
"It is an honor and a privilege to welcome back the Tuskegee Airmen and their families to Fantasy of Flight for our Fourth Annual Legends & Legacies Symposium Series," said Kim Long, General Manager. "We couldn't think of a better way to honor the Tuskegee Airmen and celebrate Black History Month than by engaging students to learn more about these brave aviators and express what they've learned through written essays. Our mission has always been to encourage young people to pursue their own dreams, and the Tuskegee Airmen are excellent role models in the values of leadership, excellence, advocacy and determination."
The deadline for the essay contest is Feb. 20, 2012 in order to allow students and student groups to attend the Tuskegee Airmen's "They Dared to Fly" symposium Feb. 9-11 and write about what they have learned.
Fantasy of Flight's permanent multi-media Tuskegee Airmen exhibit and vintage aircraft collection, including the P-51C Mustang, provides the perfect backdrop for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet the brave men who fought America's enemies abroad while enduring racism at home.
The compelling and historically significant Fourth Annual Legends & Legacies Symposium Series brings to life the experiences of some of America's most courageous aviators through permanent and semi-permanent exhibits, real aircraft, and most importantly, their own personal stories and interactions with guests. In addition, the series will include heroes from WWII and a newly created program reflecting on Vietnam.
The six topics scheduled for 2012 include: "They Dared to Fly: Featuring the Tuskegee Airmen" in honor of National Black History Month, Feb. 9-11; "Breaking All Barriers: Amazing Women in American History," in honor of National Women's History Month, March 2-3; "Unspoken Valor: The Bomber Crews of World War II," April 13-14; "D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy," May 11-12; "Reflections of Vietnam," June 8-9 and "Letters Home: Love, Courage & Survival," Oct. 12-13.
Symposium events are included in the price of Fantasy of Flight general admission and are free for annual pass holders. General admission is $28.95 for adults, $26.95 for seniors ages 55 and over and $14.95 for children, ages 6-12, plus 7 percent sales tax. Children five and under are free with full paying adult. Group rates are available for groups of 15 or more; for more information, call 863-984-3500, ext. 220. For general information, visit www.fantasyofflight.com.