Champion of the Month

Ray Johnson Share

Nov 11, 2020  |  Layla Price-Bodkin

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.

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