Out of love, ordinary people do extraordinary things.
At JZP, people built the white, clapboard shack with dragon green shutters and a broad, front porch. Their on-going, volunteer effort built the shack into a home for anyone who loved to fly, where they could become pilots, and where characters became icons and local heroes.
“That’s the thing about the airport,” said Deb McFarland. “These people come from all over, they could live 60 to 100 miles away, or more.”
The shack became a hub for pilots to rest, whether stopping by for a potluck barbecue, or seeking refuge from a war-torn country in the southern hemisphere, arriving with “only a dollar in their pocket.”
Fly-ins brought in more aviation fans, a barnstormer offering short flights for school field trips, and power parachute aerobatics. Some people became known as “airport bums,” sitting on the shack’s porch in rocking chairs -- but around the corrugated metal and timbered hangars, those people became known as the Front Porch Gang.
The Front Porch Gang gathered to critique landings, to give and take lessons, exams, earn licenses, building a place where dreams take wing and lifelong friendships grew steadfast and devoted. They lived, laughed, and learned together. The airport became solace and comfort in hard times, flying became freedom and a balm.
Over four decades, their camaraderie nurtured JZP from a hatchling to a strong-winged regional economic engine, poised to take off into a bright, new day against the backdrop of the Blue Ridge foothills.
Ellen V. Harrison, Writer