Brothers are frequent fliers at Arlington festival

ARLINGTON — For a week each year, the municipal airport is home to brothers Rod and Rick Brown.

They and their families are fixtures at the annual Arlington Fly-In, where they have set up camp each of the past 23 years.

Each fall the brothers drive up to Arlington from King and Thurston counties just to reserve their favorite summer camp spot along one of the westside runways.

“You want to stay as close as you can to the air show,” said Rod Brown, who has a pilot’s license. “Right up front.”

No, that’s not a death wish. It’s just that the Browns love to watch aerial acrobatics.

“It’s something you never get tired of,” Rick Brown said. “When we aren’t watching the show, we’re on our feet 14 hours a day looking at all of the hundreds of planes.”

Over the years, the Browns have become acquainted with many fellow airplane enthusiasts.

“We might not remember their names or what they do for a living, but we remember their aircraft,” Rod Brown said. “This is the best place to see restored classic planes and home-built aircraft.”

Now in their late 50s, the brothers plan their vacations around the air show. Rod bought a motor home just for the family to take to the event, and when they retire, the Browns plan to hold their family reunions at the Fly-In.

Typically all 720 spots in the Fly-In campground fill up each year, event director Barbara Tolbert said.

“Then we get another 400 to 600 people sleeping in tents under the wings of their planes,” Tolbert said. “Longtime campers like the Brown brothers are as much a part of the culture of the Fly-In as the airplanes. It’s always so nice to see the folks who return year after year.”

Geir Andersen of Arlington is another who camps out, even though he lives just a few miles away. Andersen and his family also volunteer to help at the Fly-In, with his specialty being to lend a hand with electrical work.

“We own a plane and just love the opportunity to get out and mingle with the aviation crowd,” Andersen said. “In the evening we watch movies at the outdoor theater, enjoy the hot air balloon show or just relax and talk with other pilots. Our kids love it, too.”

It takes about 500 volunteers to host the Fly-In, which attracts about 1,000 airplanes and about 60,000 people over the course of a week, with peak attendance usually on Saturdays when about 25,000 people are on hand to watch the air show.

Vikki Paxton of Arlington takes two weeks of vacation to volunteer as the Fly-In’s guest services manager. She tools around the airfield in a golf cart, giving a lift to older folks who look tired or delivering people to their volunteer duties on the other side of the Fly-In grounds.

On Wednesday, she enjoyed watching all the children attending the free aviation festival as part of Kids Day.

A group from a local summer camp huddled out of the rain eating their lunches in an empty glider hangar. Every time a plane flew over, the kids popped their heads out to take a look.

“Oh, that’s great,” Paxton said. “We may not be the biggest air show in the country, but we sure are the friendliest. It’s fun to see kids having a good time.”

Rick Brown’s 28-year-old son Adam is another longtime volunteer at the air show. He stays up all night with a security watch beat.

Rod Brown’s teen daughters Heidi and Kristina have never missed a Fly-In. They’ve had flying lessons in Snohomish and watched as their dad built two small biplanes in his garage.

Brown expects them to one day fly planes of their own.

“If they can afford it, they will,” he said. “It’s in their blood now because of the Fly-In. Where else are you going to see so much history and craftsmanship, and get a chance to take a ride in so many different aircraft?”

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427;

Talk to us

More in Local News

Mt. Baker visible from the summit of Mt. Dickerman on a late summer day in 2017. (Caleb Hutton / The Herald)
Hornets pester hikers on popular Mountain Loop trails

“You cannot out run the stings,” one hiker wrote in a trip report. The Forest Service has posted alerts at two trailheads.

A view of a 6 parcel, 4.4 acre piece of land in Edmonds, south of Edmonds-Woodway High School on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Housing authority seeks more property in Edmonds

The Housing Authority of Snohomish County doesn’t have specific plans for land near 80th Avenue West, if its offer is accepted.

Nursing Administration Supervisor Susan Williams points at a list of current COVID patients at Providence Regional Medical Center on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Dozens of Providence patients in medical limbo for months, even years

About 100 people are stuck in Everett hospital beds without an urgent medical reason. New laws aim for a solution.

Emergency responders surround an ultralight airplane that crashed Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, at the Arlington Municipal Airport in Arlington, Washington, resulting in the pilot's death. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Pilot dead in ultralight plane crash at Arlington Municipal Airport

There were no other injuries or fatalities reported, a city spokesperson said.

Cash is used for a purchase at Molly Moon's Ice Cream in Edmonds, Washington on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
County Council delays vote on requiring businesses to take cash

Concerns over information and enforcement postponed the council’s scheduled vote on the ordinance Wednesday in Snohomish County.

A girl walks her dog along a path lined with dandelions at Willis D. Tucker Community Park on Monday, Sept. 11, 2023, in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Spraying in Willis Tucker Park resurfaces debate over herbicides

Park staff treated about 11,000 square feet with glyphosate and 2,4-D. When applied correctly, staff said they aren’t harmful.

One of Snohomish County PUD’s new smart readers is installed at a single family home Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, in Mill Creek, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
PUD program seeks to make energy grid smarter for 380K customers

The public utility’s ConnectUp program will update 380,000 electric meters and 23,000 water meters in the next few years.

An example of the Malicious Women Co. products (left) vs. the Malicious Mermaid's products (right). (U.S. District Court in Florida)
Judge: Cheeky candle copycat must pay Snohomish company over $800K

The owner of the Malicious Women Co. doesn’t expect to receive any money from the Malicious Mermaid, a Florida-based copycat.

A grave marker for Blaze the horse. (Photo provided)
After Darrington woman’s horse died, she didn’t know what to do

Sidney Montooth boarded her horse Blaze. When he died, she was “a wreck” — and at a loss as to what to do with his remains.

Most Read