Page last updated at 11:18 GMT, Wednesday, 13 August 2008 12:18 UK

Festival celebrates air pioneer

by Freya McClements
BBC News

Amelia Earhart
The festival is one of four Earhart festivals around the world.

When Amelia Earhart set off on her record-breaking transatlantic flight in May 1932, she was aiming for the bright lights of Paris.

Instead, bad weather and mechanical problems forced her to land in a field near Derry - and the city's link with the pioneering aviator was born.

"After scaring most of the cows in the neighbourhood," Earhart is reputed to have said, "I pulled up in a farmer's back yard."

More than 80 years on, Earhart's achievement is now the focus of an international festival in Ballyarnett country park, just a stone's throw from the farm where her plane touched down.

It's the second year the Amelia Earhart festival has taken place in Derry - and, as festival director Ollie Green explained, the focus this year is firmly on the aviator's legacy.

After scaring most of the cows in the neighbourhood, I pulled up in a farmer's back yard
Amelia Earhart

"So far we have identified four Earhart international festivals around the globe.

"We've now established our first contact with the other three - in Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, where Earhart's historic flight began, in her home town of Atchison, Kansas; and in Burry Port in Wales where she landed at the end of her first transatlantic crossing as a crew member," he explained.

As part of the festival, members of Foyle and District Amateur Radio Club will attempt to make contact with the other festival locations.

"We hope to strengthen and build on the links between these places in the coming years, and international radio contact is an excellent means of establishing connections and sharing the atmosphere of what's happening here in Derry," said Mr Green.

"Their specially-equipped caravan will be open to members of the public who are welcome to call in and find out more about what amateur radio involves.

"Training in Morse code is available, and there is the social aspect of making contact with thousands of amateur radio users worldwide."

More information about Earhart's epic flight and her legacy will be on display throughout the weekend in the Amelia Earhart cottage in Ballyarnett Country Park, which will be open for the duration of the festival.

Other festival highlights will include live entertainment from The Fureys, young local singers Sarah and Aoife, and X-Factor sensations Hope, as well as a teddy bears' picnic, vintage car rally, the Eircom League soccer challenge and, on Sunday, an Earhart tribute fly-past by Letterkenny Flying Club.

The Amelia Earhart International Festival takes place at Ballyarnett Country Park, Derry, on Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 August.

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