Lake County Modelers and Flyers Association honored

BALDWIN — One of Lake County's most unusual but enjoyable clubs was recognized this week for its success and passion. That group is the The Lake County Modelers and Flyers Association.

Operating out of Baldwin Airport, the group designs, builds and races model cars and airplanes. Ranging from small handmade plastic cars which can fit in their hands to massive model airplanes with wingspans exceeding 8 feet, these passionate modelers love taking their creations to the sky and to the track.

There are several takeoff and landing areas specifically designed for the models at the airport, as well as a racetrack built by the group.

"A lot of people were exposed to it when they were kids and they basically lose interest when they get older," said Len Todd, the group's president. "When they get older they come back to it and start chasing it. We're trying to change that mindset up a bit, though. We're working to get younger people passionate about it and reach out to more female students."

The Academy of Model Aeronautics, the national body for model aviation in the United States, awarded the organization with its 2015 Silver Leaders Club Award for "their positive contributions to the sport of aeromodeling." The Lake County group is a chartered branch of the AMA.

Among the reasons the Lake County group received the award was the group's size and growth. While many groups across the country have shrinking numbers, the Lake County Modelers and Flyers Association is growing and currently has more than 60 active members. Many come from as far away as Ohio and Indiana to take part.

"The membership has people from as far away as Detroit and Traverse City. We really have a statewide membership," said Todd. "What brings them to us is our runway, our open spaces, the way we accommodate people with our low dues and how we operate and welcome people."

The Lake County Modelers and Flyers Association has planned multiple events for the summer, including the West Michigan Jet Rally from June 11 to 13, the West Michigan RC Expo from July 9 to 11, ORV Outdoor Expo on Aug. 15 and 16 and the Michigan Soaring Sail Plane Showcase on Sept. 13. They encourage anyone interested to drop by to see how it all works and, if they would like, take part.

"Weather permitting we're out there Wednesday and Sunday evenings. They are free to come watch us fly and if they are interested, they can get involved and we can teach them how to get started," remarked Todd. "We already have a lot of club planes so people don't have to have a lot of money to get involved. We try to keep it open to everyone."