Not every RAF success story is tied in with remote backcountry airstrips.  Sometimes it can be about partnering with more ‘traditional’ aviation groups for the betterment – and fun – of everyone.  One such example was the recent RAF Rodeo Weekend held in Arcadia, Florida.  A local airport support group blossomed at this orphaned municipal airport with the goal of making it both economically healthier and also a true recreational destination.  They saw what the RAF is about – not just protecting and supporting recreational airstrips but also enjoying them! – and asked if maybe we didn’t have a lot in common and should combine forces.

Now it might bust a stereotype or two, but Florida is cattle country.  In fact, it grazes more cattle than Texas.  It’s also part of the professional rodeo circuit.  And “little Arcadia” (Pop:  7,612) hosts the Grandaddy of Florida rodeos:  the 85-year young Florida Championship Rodeo.  “What if we hosted you folks for Rodeo Weekend, and you got us started with having weekend campouts under The Big Oak by our grass strip?” asked George Chase, the Friends of Arcadia Airport President.  And that’s just what we did.

Fun always seems to be part of the RAF agenda, but it’s a rare RAF event that doesn’t also have some higher purpose in the mix.  That was true in spades with this RAF Weekend.  Hard though it is to imagine, the City Council had never considered allowing an ‘aviation group’ to visit their airport before…let alone to camp out (gasp!)  But as Friends worked through each issue, the entire region ended up being part of the RAF’s Welcoming Committee.  The County Administrator drove the taxi van, the President of the Rodeo Association offered everyone special tickets, and the City Council welcomed the guests. 

While it was unique, this Friday-Sunday event was like many other RAF events:  new friends made, a fun activity involving everyone, and even an adventure or two like getting a borrowed 6-man tent set up in the dark.  But it was more than that, too.  Friends has demonstrated to its city government the potential their airport holds, Friends future is now on more solid footing, and there’s already planning afoot for Rodeo Weekend 2015.  Which the City Council won’t be gasping about.

Want to watch the weekend?  You’ll find a short Youtube video on it here.

Submitted on April 7, 2014.

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