Belfast Telegraph

Amelia Earhart 'can be Derry's Titanic'

Festival organisers see tourism bonanza in adventurer’s epic flight

By Brendan McDaid

Proposals for a massive festival to celebrate American aviator Amelia Earhart — the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic — have been revealed.

May 21 is the 80th anniversary of her momentous solo flight over the Atlantic to Londonderry.

Organisers of the annual Earhart Festival have now announced plans to “raise the bar” in 2012 and are to call for an Amelia Earhart Day on the anniversary.

The glamorous adventuress famously thought she had landed in Paris — when she was actually in a field called Gallagher’s Pasture in Ballyarnett, where the festival culminates each year.

Oliver Green, co-ordinator of the Earhart Community Arts Festival, said developing the celebration over the past 12 years had shown all that is positive about Londonderry. “But we believe that now is the time to raise the bar and to bring about international recognition of Derry’s role in one of the most historic moments in aviation history,” he said.

In recent years, Greater Shantallow Community Arts (GCSA) has been involved in a number of projects celebrating Earhart's 1932 crossing.

Mr Green said: “In our opinion, Earhart has the potential to be our Titanic Quarter and, similar to Belfast, to form the basis of a global tourist attraction for the city”’. GSCA is involved in proposals for a community arts centre at Ballyarnett Country Park, to include an Earhart aviation centre.

It is also developing plans for a city-wide children's art project, linking with the Smithsonian in Washington, screening films and documentaries on a giant public screen in Waterloo Place, staging of plays and dramas, live music and a 20’s/30’s themed ball.

Interested parties can contact Mr Green at GSCA via e-mail: info@gscaderry.com

Background

Aged 34, on the morning of May 20, 1932, Amelia Earhart set off from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland. She intended to fly to Paris in her single engine Lockheed Vega 5B to emulate Charles Lindbergh's solo flight five years earlier.

After 14 hours, 56 minutes, Earhart landed at what is now Ballyarnett Country Park. When farmhand Dan McCallion asked: “Have you flown far?” she replied, “Just from America”.

Earhart received the Distinguished Flying Cross from Congress, the Cross of Knight of the Legion of Honor from France and the Gold Medal of the National Geographic Society, from president Herbert Hoover. Today, a full sized replica of the Lockheed Vega sits in Washington’s Smithsonian Institute.

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