In 1927, American aviator Charles Lindbergh made the first solo, non-stop transatlantic flight aboard the Spirit of St. Louis. Many southeast Missourians may be surprised to hear that, before that famed ride, he made several stops in Perryville, Missouri during numerous barnstorming swings.
As of this month, Perry County Heritage Tourism has solidified plans to honor Lindbergh with a historical marker on the Seminary Picnic Grounds - a place where the young pilot frequently landed to entertain picnic-goers, perform stunts, and take aviation enthusiasts on 15-minute rides over the city for $3 each.
“We thought this was an important thread to the history of our community, and to have such an attachment to someone who became so famous - who had done so much for the aviation community,” says heritage tourism director, Trish Erzfeld. The idea to establish a marker was brought to her in 2018 by the son of Ben Schindler, whose father took his first and only plane ride with Lindbergh.
“Ben’s son is in his 80’s, so we really don’t want to lose those memories and that documentation. We’re just trying to save those,” says Erzfeld.
The site, called “Field to Flight,” will include an 8-foot replica of Lindbergh’s airplane wing, and an 8-foot-tall piece of tempered glass with an etched image of the plane he landed on the grounds. A ribbon-cutting is slated to take place in 2020 during the next seminary picnic.
“Folks will actually be able to stand there and see the plane over and through the glass, seeing the actual landscape that he once landed in,” says Erzfeld.
Although Lindbergh barnstormed many rural communities throughout the Midwest, Erzfeld feels that the picnic grounds have been virtually unchanged - preserved, even - for the last 100 years.
It’s still used for the same long-standing event as it was in the 1920’s.
“We feel like we have the unique perspective of giving someone that experience to imagine his first time flying in Perry County,” says Erzfeld.
As for regional tourism, Erzfeld says this could start a discussion on what started in a cow pasture field, they can now talk about in regards to their regional airport and where it’s taken them today.
“Through tourism, we can see where we started, where we’re at today, and our plans for the future, which we’re very excited for,” says Erzfeld.