Airplanes, literally and figuratively, soared through Sherburne County in the 1920s. The magical technology of flight sparked the imaginations of more and more Sherburne county residents as the decade proceeded. In 1928, the fascination with airplanes culminated at the Christmas celebration in Elk River.
|A group of young ladies admire 1920s aircraft
in Orrock Township
Beginning with the post war period, Sherburne County held a fascination with airplanes. As early as October 1919, the Sherburne County Star News reported on deliveries to Elk River merchants via air transport.
Interest grew until August 1927, a race and good will tour passed over Elk River. At that event, letters addressed to Elk River Mayor Beck dropped from planes, requesting city leaders place signage on the highest building in town. During the race pilots used the signage as a navigation tool. Still later in the year, an aerial circus performed above Elk River. Wing walker and acrobat George Babcock, performed a variety of feats, including hanging from the plane “by his knees, hands and teeth,” the paper reported.
With an appetite for airplane technology, Elk River entered enthusiastically welcomed 1928. Early in the year, local businessmen explored plans to develop an aircraft assembly plant. In February, construction of a Curtiss Bi-plane began in an undeveloped, yet planned, airplane landing field west of Elk River. Although the construction plant never came to fruition, the Elk River dedicated the airfield in May 1928.
For the people of Elk River and Sherburne, the high point of air transportation in 1928 arrived in December. “The scream of the fire siren and the roar of the big creamery whistle announced the coming of Santa Claus in his first flying visit to Elk River” the newspaper reported. Just two weeks before Christmas, the Elk River Commercial Club arranged for Santa’s visit. A plane from Robbinsdale flew to the headquarters of Santa Claus, the paper reported, to deliver him to Elk River.
Although never able to capitalize on the business and technology in airplanes, Elk River and Sherburne County maintained an interest in airplanes and flight into the 1930s and through the Second World War. Yet, interest seemed at the high point in the magical year of 1928 when plans for the city and dreams of aeronautical development soared.