Casper has been chosen as the location for one of three fly-in events put on by the world's largest pilot organization, likely to draw thousands to the community on the same weekend as the College National Finals Rodeo.

Some 500 aircraft will land in Casper, and the two-day event is expected to draw 3,000-7,000 attendees, Glenn Januska, director of the Casper-Natrona County International Airport, told K2 Radio News in a phone interview Thursday.

Januska said he and local tourism officials submitted a proposal and have worked with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for some 18 months to have Casper selected as one of the three destinations for the group's 2020 fly-in events.

While the CNFR has nothing to do with aviation, it played a significant role in the AOPA selecting Casper as the destination for its June 19-20 event. After making sure that the airport facilities are adequate to support the fly-in, Januska said attention turned to community participation.

"It may not seem like the most intuitive thing," Januska explained. "But we thought that this would be a great opportunity for the people who are flying in, who may not have ever been to a rodeo, to really show off what we do and what the community does from the CNFR."

"And they loved that idea that it could drive some additional attendance on their part by having the CNFR associated with it, we think that's great from the CNFR because more people will be in the community to attend it," Januska continued. He said to ensure Casper was chosen as one of the three locations for 2020, it was important to emphasize what the community could offer to attendees and demonstrate the airport's capability to host such a large gathering.

"The first phone call that I made when I looked at this [request for proposals] was to Brook [Kaufman] at Visit Casper, because she was part of the planning group we had for the eclipse," Januska recalled. "I picked up the phone, I called her and I asked, 'Hey Brook, do you have a minute to talk about the next once-in-a-lifetime event?'"

Januska explained that the same group which organized festivities surrounding the 2017 eclipse voiced its support for hosting the fly-in and helped get the planning off the ground.

"We had the nucleus of this group with the eclipse, we just kind of carried it over and started planning this next event," Januska said.

The listing for the Casper fly-in on the AOPA website is under the heading, "Cowboy Up!"

"Dust off your boots and hitch up your chaps, the historic city of Casper, Wyoming will host an AOPA Fly-In on June 19 and 20," the listing reads. "Faded signage on historic buildings remind you that this is a western town, with roots in the era when pioneers came west to search for gold and when the horse was essential transportation."

AOPA touts the CNFR, mammoth fossils, dinosaur tracks and the proximity of geographical features such as the Tetons, Bighorn Mountains and Yellowstone National Park as part of the Casper's allure.

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