Waxahachie’s aviation history will be honored this Friday at Mid-Way Regional Airport with a plaque dedicated to recognize the 90th anniversary of aviator Bessie Coleman’s flight to Waxahachie.
The event will be held 5:30 – 7 p.m. at the airport, which is located at 131 Airport Dr. in Midlothian. The public is invited to attend this free event.
Coleman grew in Waxahachie and earned her pilot’s license in France in 1921, and in the process becoming the first African-American female pilot. After earning her wings, Coleman returned to Waxahachie on Sept. 26, 1925 and performed an exhibition flight on the Trinity University athletic field, which is now the home of Southwestern Assemblies of God University.
“We are doing this in conjunction with the Chautauqua assembly, with this year’s theme being ‘Celebrate Flight.’ From the airport’s standpoint we are going to celebrate our Waxahachie native Bessie Coleman by honoring her with a plaque at the airport commemorating her 90th anniversary of her return to Waxahachie where she had an aerobatic performance at what is now SAGU,” said Judy Demoney, the Mid-Way Airport Manager. “She was not born in Waxahachie, but she came here at age 2. She was educated here. She graduated from school here before she left with her family to go to Chicago. She is quite a historic figure in the aviation industry. She has been honored, I believe, in the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame. She is our native.”
Along with the dedication, historical actor Joanna Maddox from Atlanta will bring Coleman’s story to life during a special lecture presentation. Maddox will be available for pictures and those attending the event are encouraged to bring their cameras. Maddox will also be performing at this year’s Chautauqua Assembly on Saturday to tell Coleman’s story.
The aluminum cast plaque being dedicated Friday features a picture of Coleman and information about her life. The plaque measures 12 inches by 18 inches and will be placed next to the flagpole at the airport.
The winners from the Chautauqua art contest will be also be announced at the airport on Friday. Waxahachie high school, middle school and elementary school students were asked to give their interpretation of flight in the art competition. The entries were judged on Sept. 22 by three judges from the Ellis County Art Association — Jana Jennings, Diane Pittard, and Shawn Davis. The entries were judged on their creativity, craftsmanship, and relationship to the theme of Flight.
There are 50 finalists and nine winners. The work of the winners and finalists will be put on display at the Assembly on Saturday.
All finalists’ work, not just the winners, will be displayed and honored at a special reception 5-6 p.m. Sept. 29 at the WISD Administration Building. The administration building is located at 411 N. Gibson Street.
At the dedication event on Friday there will be vintage aircraft including a biplane on display, Boy Scout Troop 524 will be selling hot dogs, chips and drinks and there will be live music.
Demoney said she wants to encourage the public to come out and attend this event, which honors an important person from aviation history.
The dedication is in conjunction with the Waxahachie Chautauqua Preservation Society’s annual Chautauqua Assembly. The Assembly will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Chautauqua Auditorium in Getzendaner Park. Getzendaner Park is located off of Grand Avenue. It is free for the public to attend.
Assembly events also include a presentation from Apollo 13 astronaut Fred Haise as this year’s keynote speaker. Haise will be taking the stage at 10 a.m. During his talk, Haise will share details about the ill-fated mission in 1970 when an explosion damaged the spacecraft traveling to the moon. This mission has been featured in the book “Lost Moon” and in the film “Apollo 13,” directed by Ron Howard.
Those attending the Assembly will get the chance to see several birds of prey up close through a demonstration from “Last Chance Forever Bird of Prey Conservancy” The bird rehabilitators will demonstrate the art of falconry to showcase the flight of several birds, including hawks and falcons.
The North Texas Drone User Group will also be making an appearance at this year’s Assembly. The group’s presentation will provide information about how drones are being used in search and rescue operations, ecological studies and various military applications.
Dr. Mark Rosen from the University of Texas at Dallas will be speaking about Leonardo da Vinci. Rosen is professor of art history, specializing in late Medieval, Renaissance and baroque art.