Aviation Day-Bigger and better than ever

Johnston with "The Beast" and his nephew, Matthew, holding his radio controlled airplane.
Kevin Johnston with “The Beast” and his nephew, Matthew, holding his radio controlled airplane.

IMPERIAL – Aviation Day last Saturday at the County Airport pulled out all the bells, whistles, and wings, fixed and edible. To add to the day’s festivities, a 1st annual chicken wing cook-off was added to the savory smells of kennel corn and other delectable scents wafting through the more than 58 booths.


Always, the stars of the show are the airplanes, especially the ones taxiing children on free rides over the colored squares of the Imperial Valley farmlands hoping to excite their minds to be part of the aviation world when they grow up.


For adults and children, a more affordable entry to flying is the radio-controlled aircraft. Kevin Johnston of El Centro, started his flying hobby 30 years ago as a child when his father let him fly one of his model planes.


“He didn’t let me land or take off at first, but when it was up, I got to take over the controls. It was fun, I have been doing it ever since,” Johnston said.


He is he owner of “The Beast”. A 28 lb., 89” wingspan. bright red Cub J-3 bi-plane. Johnston and 50 fellow aviation enthusiasts take their models to Thompson’s Crossing off Forrester Road. There they race and fly to their heart’s content.


In family fashion, Johnston has taken his nephew, 14-year-old Matthew, under his wing and has set him onto the path of model, radio-controlled planes.


“Our club, the Imperial Valley Radio Control Association, has guys ranging from Matthew here at 14 clear up to Archie McCarthy who is around 70”, Johnston said.


“It’s a great hobby, but I also have a real plane I like to fly. It’s a North American Navion from 1946. It’s the same plane Patton used out here in the desert when he would fly from training ground to training ground, checking on his troops. My grandfather was a pilot, as was my dad, my aunts and my uncles.” Johnston added, “Radio-controlled flying keeps young ones busy, their minds and hands active, and out of trouble.  Anyone can get started with a $150 investment down at the local hobby store.”

Kill it and Grill it win The People’s Choice Award

At the end of the day, winners were announced for the Chicken Wing Cook-off. Taking “Best of the Nest” (best booth) was the Duck Dynasty look -a -like group, Kill It and Grill It. They also won the People’s Award. Both awards netted them $500.


Elliot Fortin, of Imperial, replete with duck calls hanging from his neck, beard, and camo said, “We had such a good time at the last tri-tip cook-off at the park we decided to compete here, too. Everyone pitched in and I’m glad for the People’s vote.”


Las Chabelas Restaurant crowned "King of the Wing"
Las Chabelas Restaurant crowned “King of the Wing”

The “King of the Wing” was Las Chabelas Restaurant from Brawley. Besides a large chicken trophy, they put $500 in their pockets for being the best of the best.