Airport of the Month: Winsted
Everyone agreed that July 31, 1966 was a great day for an airshow and Winsted was a perfect place to have one. To make a good day even better, Minnesota Flyer founder Sherm Booen was "Master of Ceremonies" for the first airshow at the Winsted Municipal Airport. After some "sky divers" did their act, Booen announced there would be a "fly-by" of a Northwest Airlines 707. Captain Spencer Marsh grew up in nearby Glencoe and had arranged for the airliner to come by Winsted during a training flight. Everyone probably anticipated a stately pass 1000 feet of so above the runway. Instead the big jet put down landing gear and flaps. The crew lined up on what appeared to be an approach for landing. One eye witness described the scene: "Sweeping across the end of the runway, the Boeing descended to within 10 feet of the sod. Leveled off, the 707 tore down the runway with its engines thundering, trailing tornadoes from the tips of its wings." A couple little tail draggers were tipped up on their noses, but nothing was damaged. It was an exciting start for a new airport.
The City of Winsted opened the airport only two years before the big Boeing Airliner "almost landed there." By 1966 it was already popular with the owners of somewhat smaller airplanes. The 200 foot wide and 3200 foot long turf runway was perfect for the "tail dragger" crowd and a number of them moved there as soon as it opened. Fifty years later the runway is still pretty much the same, and in excellent shape. The only change has been the addition of runway lights. But, other things on the airport are a lot different. Winsted is even more popular now. There are 47 hangars and over 50 aircraft are based at the Winsted Airport. These days the spectacular fly-by would probably have cost the airline crew their jobs, or at least condemned them to fly the "red-eye" to Newark forever. It's not likely to be repeated, but there's plenty of other cool stuff going on in Winsted.
"Windstock" is a country music festival that happens in June just across the road from the airport. It's a three day event. "Underwing" camping is part of the ambiance at Winsted, so you can sleep next to your plane and walk over to hear the tunes. Winsted also hosts both summer and winter festivals. The warm weather one is during the weekend of the second Sunday in August. For cold weather enthusiasts that one is the first weekend in December. Food, more music, games and a parade are featured at both events. If you're there on less busy days, five restaurants are within a mile of the airport for your "$100 burger". If you don't like sleeping with your airplane, a hotel is also less than a mile away. Ground transportation is available from Trailblazer Transit. Winsted Lake is pretty cool, the city has some nice parks, plus there's the Winsted Wildcats amateur baseball team for sports fans.
Eli Lewis was the pioneer settler of Winsted. He came to Minnesota in 1857 and named Winsted after his home town in Connecticut. Lewis started Winsted's first commercial enterprise, dried Ginseng. A post office was established in 1858 and the village was incorporated in 1887. Russ Pascke also immigrated to Winsted, but it was a century after Eli Lewis. Pascke had a shorter trip than Lewis, having grown up in Faribault. After settling in Winsted, Pascke final found the time to realize his life-long dream of flying. He later built or restored four airplanes, and for 35 years was the Airport Manager. For good measure Russ Pascke chaired the Airport Commission for many years. Somehow he also found the time to operate his own plumbing and heating business, own a hardware store and raise eight children. Most local pilots attribute the current success of the Winsted Airport to the efforts of Russ Pascke and in 2009 the city dedicated the new Arrival/Departure Building in his memory.
Turf runways are ideal for little "taildraggers". The one in Winsted might not work for 707s but it is firm enough for many light twins. There's both paved and turf parking areas. 100 Low Lead is available at the self-service fuel facility. Even if a big airliner doesn't show up to make a low pass while you're there, a trip to the Winsted Municipal Airport is definitely a fun idea.