The Pekin R/C Club will host its 38th annual Big Bird Fly-In Sunday at Hermon Lowery Field, with all welcome to join the just for fun event.

Throughout the event, which will run from from 9 a.m. to approximately 2 p.m., the club will hold raffles for chances to win gift baskets or pieces of handmade furniture.

“It’s mainly for the big airplanes,” said Donna Smith, Pekin R/C Club member and former president. “Anybody can come and fly in it, as long as they have an AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics) card and a radio-controlled plane with a wingspan between 60 and 80 inches. It’s not a competition. A bunch of clubs just get together, fly their planes and have fun.”

The Pekin R/C Club began in the 1960s with a group of local men who shared an interest in radio-controlled airplanes and a converted barnyard at Everett McKinley Dirksen Park that served as an air field. Today, the club has added a pavilion for shelter and a block building for storing supplies and club materials. The once uneven ground of the club’s makeshift air field has been levelled and carefully maintained by club member, and a boundary fence has been added. In honor of one of the club’s co-founders, the field was named Hermon Lowery Field in 1994.

Smith promoted the fly-in as a fun, family-friendly event. The atmosphere is somewhat similar to a cruise-in, with radio-controlled planes taking the place of classic cars. 

“It’s a lot of fun to watch, because you see a lot of different airplanes out here,” she said. “The kids love to come out because we always give them little balsa wood planes to fly. The parents love to come out and just let the kids run or watch the planes, because you don’t see a lot of these big ones.”

Radio-controlled flying clubs are abundant throughout the area, said Smith. There are groups in Peoria, Chillicothe, Decatur, Champaign and Springfield. The Pekin R/C Club currently consists of about 40 members. The Pekin R/C Club provides both old and new radio-controlled aircraft pilots with instruction, resources, fellowship and a place to fly. The group meets at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday at Hermon Lowery Field in Dirksen Park, and it holds monthly meetings every third Saturday. For more information, visit www.pekinrc.com.

Shane Davis, Pekin R/C Club member, flew radio-controlled planes when he was younger, and he is still interested.

“The people are great,” he said. “They helped me get back into flying with the new technology, and they welcomed me right away when I joined four years ago. They’re good people, and they’ll help anybody.”