Sun 'n Fun Air Fest brings thousands to Lakeland

Posted at 8:27 AM, Apr 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-05 18:17:13-04

In 1974, Sun ‘n Fun was created by a small group of dedicated aviation enthusiasts. Now in its 42nd year, the Sun 'n Fun International Fly-in and Expo takes over Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, and is expected to attract about 250,000 people over the six-day event.

"We make it safe. We make it friendly. We make it enjoyable," said John "Lights" Leenhouts, president and CEO of Sun 'n Fun.

The event includes thousands of planes, about 500 exhibits, and the non-profit company uses the money to fund aviation education.

"Everything goes right back into the community to educate kids, young men and women to have a career in aviation," Leenhouts said.

Sun 'n Fun bills itself as Florida's largest annual convention, and with over 250 planes expected to take off each day, it expects to make Lakeland's airport the busiest in the country over the next few days.

For the other 51 weeks of each year, activities on the Sun ‘n Fun Convention Campus include public and private events in the facilities on nearly 200 acres. The Aerospace Center for Excellence (ACE) has introduced Aerospace Discovery at the Florida Air Museum in a dynamic fashion as it incorporates aviation history into hands-on interactive learning stations for students of all ages, according to the company's website.

Sun ‘n Fun makes more than $430,000 of scholarship funds available annually to students in Polk County entering an Aerospace Industry career, all to cover the cost of flight lessons and/or college tuition for 4 years.

An estimated $2.1 million is invested by Sun ‘n Fun to augment public education programs in Polk County annually, says the company.