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Local PPG to break records, brings new elements in 2021

The Fifth Annual Moonshiners Powered ParaGlider (PPG) Fly-In, happening at Johnson County Airport this weekend expects to bring approximately 300 to 500 people to the event. Online Photo

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

The small town of Mountain City expects a rush of people from all around the nation for a record-breaking event at the Johnson County Airport, starting this Wednesday and continuing through August 8. According to Airport Manager Dave Garris, this “could possibly be the largest gathering to ever happen.”The Fifth Annual Moonshiners Powered ParaGlider (PPG) Fly-In, which started as a group of three guys visiting locally, is expected to garner approximately 300 to 500 people. The recent North Georgia PPG event broke records with 326 pilots, all of which reportedly agreed to come to this event along with others.

“A lot of the reason I do this is for community involvement,” explained Garris, who puts up the brunt of the funding. “There are no grants for putting on an air show now. This is my way of putting on an air show for the community that doesn’t cost a fortune.”

Organizers canceled the event last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the original crew did an unofficial fly-in to keep the event’s spirit alive. Now pilots are coming to Johnson County in droves to participate in 2021. Garris also reports a few new things happening this year, including onsite food service. He explained that having onsite food “will make a huge difference in getting people to come in” because campers rarely bring cooking equipment. A pilot and his wife will be supplying food at a small cost to visitors. The menu is available through the event page or here.

Garris was worried about the weather, but the current forecast is leaning towards sunny. The highest chances for showers are on what Garris refers to as “check-in days.” He seems confident this will not be an issue. The entire event is family-oriented and a “good outdoor social distancing event.” At the time of this article, families have already started coming in and spending quality time at the campsite.

“Thank you to the community for allowing me to run the airport and put on events like this,” Garris expressed his gratitude while discussing the event.

There will be many things to do during the event, including demonstrations and talks with the pilots. But those who wish to see the paragliders inflight need to visit in the mornings or late afternoons. According to Garris, the best time for this type of flight is around 6:30 pm to dark. There will be more special events on Saturday, August 7, including onsite shopping with the Mountain Farm and Craft Market, fireworks, live music from Classic Highway, and a buffet catered by the BeetRoute Catering Company.

Another draw for this event could be the third Darkhorse450, which will make its final stop at the Johnson County Airport during the event. Garris reports the group planned to do this before, but unforeseen circumstances prevented it. The Darkhorse450 is a fundraising event through nonprofit Darkhorse Lodge. Upon completion, the Darkhorse Lodge will be a retreat in Springville, Tennessee, for combat veterans with 25 rooms, each named after one of the fallen marines from the 3/5 Darkhorse unit.

For more information on the Fifth Annual Moonshiners Powered ParaGlider Fly-In, visit the Johnson County Airport Facebook page or the event page. Find out more about the airport at doemountainaviation.com or (423) 727-1223.