The Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In & Expo (SnF) is an annual, weeklong event held in March or April at the SnF Expo campus, adjacent to Linder Regional Airport in Lakeland. It is the second-largest fly-in in the United States.
The idea for the fly-in was hatched and nurtured in 1974 by members of the Lakeland chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association, the Southeastern Sport Aviation Council, and the Florida Sport Antique and Classic Aircraft Association. The first fly-in, called Mid-Winter Sun ‘n Fun was a weekend event held in January 1975 at the Lakeland Municipal Airport. Attendance was limited to pilots and members of the founding organizations and consisted of 1,980 guests and 365 aircraft.
The second fly-in in 1976 was expanded to a weeklong event that was opened to limited numbers of the public. Attendance recorded was “6,168 registrants from 38 states, Canada, Australia, and Holland.” There were “1,200 aircraft including 200 homebuilts, 180 antiques, 260 classics, and 28 Warbirds on site.” Since those early years, the fly-in has expanded to include more types of aircraft, such as hot air balloons, while participants now number in the hundreds of thousands. A year-by-year history of the event can be viewed at http://www.flysnf.org/about/snfhistory/.
Sun ‘n Fun, now a non-profit entity independent of its founding organizations, has its own conference and education campus, open year-round. Its mission “is to preserve and enhance the future of flight through world-class events, inspiring and educating people of all ages.” It provides educational programs as well as scholarships for 41 high school students to become certified pilots. The annual fly-in and expo provides 80% of the revenue for its operating budget. The rest comes from the donations of private individuals and foundations. SnF offers educational programs that should be of general interest. For example, my husband and I, who have no plans to become licensed pilots, have attended programs about traveling the Lewis & Clark Trail by air and on uses of and regulations concerning drones. Both these programs were open to the public free of charge.
The SnF expo campus is the location of the Central Florida Aerospace Academy, a branch of Kathleen High School, one of Polk County’s public schools. Students interested in aeronautics and engineering can take their classes at this site, while still participating in extracurricular activities at Kathleen HS. It is also home to Aerospace Center for Excellence and Aerospace Discovery at the Florida Air Museum, a venue for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs and activities. A schedule of upcoming events can be found at http://www.flysnf.org/events/.
The Sun ‘n Fun Expo Campus is located at:
4175 Medulla Rd, Lakeland, FL 33811
Phone: (863) 644-2431