Play on the runway during Second Sunday

I was in college before I took my first airplane trip, so when I was a kid, there was always something magical about flight.

My father would occasionally take me to what was then called Blue Grass Field to watch airplanes come and go. And the whole family would go out to see him off to his annual convention of college bookstore managers.

As Dad’s plane would roll down the runway, faster and faster until finally taking flight, I would wave and wonder: If I could pedal my bicycle fast enough down that runway, would I take off, too?

I have learned enough about aerodynamics since then to know it is highly improbable. Still, on Sunday afternoon, I plan to give it a try. You should, too.

From 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Blue Grass Airport will open its nearly completed 4,000-foot runway, which is 75 feet wide, and the parallel taxiway, which is 35 feet wide, for people to bike, skate, walk or run on.

Some of the fresh pavement will be reserved for chalk drawings. Big chalk drawings.

Families are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and picnics and watch at least 15 scheduled commercial flights come and go on the airport’s 7,000-foot main runway nearby. Fire trucks and a police helicopter will be on display. You can bring leashed pets, balls and Frisbees, but no kites.

The free event, dreamed up by Urban County Councilman Jay McChord and the airport’s executive director, Eric Frankl, reminds me of the Blue Grass Field community days that I went to as a kid. But this is the first time the airport has ever let the public play on a runway.

“It should be a lot of fun,” Frankl said. “It will allow people to check out the airport from a different perspective.”

This is part of the Second Sunday series of monthly events throughout Kentucky designed to get average people outdoors and exercising.

Like me, McChord has fond boyhood memories of going out to the airport to watch airplanes come and go. But Second Sunday isn’t so much about nostalgia as about dealing with Kentucky’s modern problems. We eat too much and exercise too little, helping to make Kentucky first in the nation in cancer, No. 3 in heart disease and smoking, and No. 9 in premature deaths of all kinds.

Usually, Second Sunday involves closing a street to cars for a few hours, or having a monthly family bike ride escorted by police. Those rides are much like the recent 10-mile tour through downtown and the University of Kentucky campus that attracted more than 2,500 people of all ages during Bike Lexington on Memorial Day.

The statewide Second Sunday event this year will be Oct. 10 — 10-10-10, for those who pay attention to calendar symbolism. Simultaneous street closings are planned throughout Kentucky to encourage people to take to the pavement and move.

Seventy counties participated in the inaugural Second Sunday, in October 2008; last year, 107 counties participated. Diana Doggett, a Fayette County extension agent and statewide coordinator for Second Sunday, hopes to get all 120 counties involved this year.

Lexington’s plans are still being developed. If you live in another county, ask your extension agent about local plans.

No matter where you live, you are welcome to come out Sunday to Blue Grass Airport. Parking will be available next to the runway. Vehicles should enter near the airport’s rescue training center on Versailles Road, just west of Keeneland. If parking fills up, LexTran will provide shuttles to and from an overflow location, and Pedal Power bike shop will provide bike shuttles.

Based on the crowd at Bike Lexington, Frankl expects several thousand people to come out to the airport Sunday, if the weather is nice, to play on the $27 million runway before it opens to aircraft.

“Obviously,” he said, “this is a unique event.”

If you go

Second Sunday at Blue Grass Airport

When: 2-5 p.m. June 13

Where: Enter near the training center on Versailles Rd. west of Keeneland.

More information:

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