Ray Johnson has flown to great heights to champion for Marion & Grant County through a special aviation and autocraft event considered as a vital part of the community’s heritage.
Johnson was born and raised in Elwood until age 6, then grew up on a big farm between Marion and Gas City. He graduated from Mississinewa High School, then earned an Associate’s Degree in Electrical Engineering Technology in Ft. Wayne. Johnson was a loyal employee of American Electric Power and retired after 42 years.
When he was a boy, his uncle landed a small plane on his family farm. The childhood event sparked a passion that keeps growing. He now owns and flies two vintage airplanes, and holds a Private Pilot’s license.
In 1991, Johnson thought of a way to bring people to the area while helping a local organization. That dream materialized into what is now renowned as the Fly/In Cruise/In, a grand event featuring a variety of vintage and unique aircraft and autocraft. Now approaching 30 years of existence, the mega event held at the Marion Airport attracts air and auto professionals and enthusiasts from all over the country and beyond. Johnson has been the coordinator since year one. The event holds 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, has a board of directors, and is supported by many dedicated volunteers and sponsors each year.
Johnson touted many individuals who have helped the event grow. “It’s really about the people. This wonderful and giving community works together to promote Marion & Grant County for a good cause.”
Over the years, the historical event has helped four local organizations in total: MHS Band Boosters, Cancer Services of Grant County, Gilead Ministries, and currently partners with the Grant County Rescue Mission — all through the popular pancake breakfast. Each year, the partnering organization coordinates approximately 100 volunteers, and earns 100% of the proceeds. Roughly 3,000 pancake meals are produced for hungry patrons during the large late-summer festivity.
Another parallel annual event occurs in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Johnson, for about ten years, has been active in coordinating and promoting AirVenture Oshkosh. He holds a seat on the Board of Directors of the Vintage Aircraft Association, an international organization. He also coordinates the program, “Vintage in Review,” at the annual international convention in Oshkosh. He says the world-known attraction in Wisconsin helps him to network and bring unique and antique aircraft to the Fly/In Cruise/In.