URBANA — Having hosted several of its staple events already this year, Grimes Field in Urbana is changing things up a bit with an out of the ordinary event for the airport – Blessing of the Aircraft.
“The airport has not previously hosted this event, but I was thinking about the blessing of the bikes and the blessing of the fleet and it occurred to me that aircraft need blessing, too,” Grimes Field Manager Lou Driever said.
Sponsored by the St. Mary’s Parish in Urbana, the event will take place on Friday in honor of Saint Joseph of Cupertino, the patron saint of aviators, flying and studying, who died on Sept. 18, 1663.
Driever said aircraft at Grimes Field will begin moving into position around 2 p.m., light refreshments will be served at 4 p.m. and a bagpipe prelude will begin at 4:30 p.m. Prior to the blessing ceremony at 5 p.m., commemorative decals marking the event will be available in a tent south of Grimes Hangar.
Presiding over the Blessing of the Aircraft will be Father Larry Gearhart, pastor of the four Catholic parishes in Champaign County.
“I have never blessed an aircraft before, though there are two official Catholic blessing prayers for aircraft as well as two blessing prayers for any bridge, highway, street, railway or airport – all contained in the ‘Order for the Blessing of the Various Means of Transportation,’” Gearhart said. “It is always an honor to serve people in the priestly ministry, and blessing them, their homes, their possessions, especially religious items … etc. is a significant part of that ministry.”
Driever said the plan is for Gearhart to bless the assembled aircraft and pilots as a group first before blessing individual aircraft. Following the blessing, aircraft will depart at 90-second intervals.
Driever said the response has been positive from pilots.
“The enthusiastic reception of the flying community to this event is heartwarming, and I’m grateful for the volunteers whose assistance is making it all come together,” he said.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.