PGAP Scholarships 1

By Bob Balgemann
POPLAR GROVE – The Wings and Wheels Museum at Poplar Grove Airport is a busy place during the summer.
Thursday, July 9 the Poplar Grove Aviation Education Association announced winners of seven scholarships, awarded annually to college students who are pursuing a career in aviation.
And there were other announcements as well:
The museum is starting an Oral History project in which residents with roots in the community will share their recollections. Initial interviews will be conducted this summer, fall and winter, with an exhibit being put together for next spring.
Saturday, July 18, during the annual Wings and Wheels Festival, people will create pop-up exhibits depicting “Life on the Land” of Boone County.
Those two new wrinkles are part of the museum’s attempt to establish a better connection with the community. Joanna Dowling, the museum’s creative and programming director, explained it this way:
It has been said that museums should be more like a dog. When someone takes a dog for a walk, the canine serves as a connection between its owner and others walking their dogs. Conversations evolve after the dogs bring their walk to a brief halt, to make nice with another of their kind.
“Museums should be a connective with the community, rather than a passive institution,” Dowling explained. “So, we are working on that.”
Pop-up exhibits
First in line are the pop-up exhibits that people will make and share with the museum and visitors during its upcoming festival. The exhibits could consist of an object, photograph or a memento that tells a story of “life on the land.”
“It does not have to be old or precious, just meaningful to you,” promotional material stated. “We will provide everything else.”
Five years ago, some Harlem High School students in Machesney Park started a series of interviews with veterans on World War II. That project has grown to the point that some interviews are on file in the Library of Congress and, now, Korean War veterans are telling their stories.
The Wings and Wheels Museum’s project will focus on local aviation and transportation, said Mike Frederiksen, the museum’s curator and collections manager. The interviews will be collected digitally and be available for the community to see and hear.
Telling stories is “one of the oldest forms of history,” he said. “It’s passed on from one generation to another. We want to hear recollections of work and play, the extraordinary and the everyday.”
The museum’s project “is a way of capturing what was not part of the written record,” such as census reports, journals and diaries, he said.
Booths with information about the project will be at the July 18 Wings and Wheels Festival at the airport; at the July 15 Neighbors Night Festival at Lions Park in Poplar Grove; Boone County Fair from Aug. 11 to Aug. 16; Poplar Grove Airport and Lions Club breakfast Aug. 23 at the airport; and the model train show Oct. 10 at the Wings and Wheels Museum.
Dowling said museum staff would like residents’ feedback on those projects. “If you have suggestions on how we can better connect with the community, we want to hear about that.” she said.
Student paintings
The museum invited elementary schools from around the county to have their students draw what they think about when it comes to aviation. Lincoln Elementary was the only one to respond and some 40 of its students, 9 and 10 years of age, submitted colorful drawings of how they saw aviation.
“Taking Flight” was the title of the gallery of artwork and Dowling said the drawings, somewhat surprisingly, didn’t include many airplanes.
Some of the subjects were hot air balloons, birds, fairies, butterflies, an angel, a dolphin leaping out of the water and a dragon.
Scholarship winners
Judi Zangs, general manager of the museum, announced this year’s scholarship winners. They were:
Ethan Olson, Caledonia, and Brian Stuehler, Hampshire, each received a $1,500 award from the Thomas family, owners of Poplar Grove Airport.
Charlie Schloff, South Beloit, $1,000 scholarship courtesy of the Chapter 1414, Experimental Aircraft Association, located at Poplar Grove Airport.
Haley Gustafson of Rockford, $600 Paul Frederiksen Sr. award.
Anas Ali of Rockford, $1,000 Flaugher family scholarship.
Nicole Ervin of Rockford and Ben Meek of Poplar Grove received $1,500 scholarships each from the Vintage Wings and Wheels Museum.
Since 2003, the Poplar Grove Aviation Education Association has awarded nearly $100,000 in scholarships to students pursuing a career in aviation.
The main purpose of the association, Zangs said, is “to educate and inspire. We encourage people to pursue careers in aviation.”

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