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Pence Springs, WV

Wings and Wheels Festival Returns to Pence Springs

The West Virginia Daily News
The West Virginia Daily News
 2021-09-16

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The annual Wings and Wheels Festival is once again being held in Pence Springs after being unable to take place in 2020. It is set to be held on Sept. 18 from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. The event is partly dedicated to Ruth Tolley Gwinn who holds the title of the youngest woman to earn a pilot's license in West Virginia history.

Gwinn was the daughter of James Tolley who was an aviation pioneer in West Virginia. After building an airfield on the family farm, Tolley began landing planes at what is now the Hinton-Alderson Airport (WV77) in the early 1930s. In the description of a DVD called "The Long Runway Home," which tells the story of Gwinn and her husband Col. John Gwinn, she is quoted as saying, "I didn't learn to drive, I learned to fly!" At only 16 years old, Gwinn accomplished what is known as "soloing," which means she flew without the aid or assistance of an instructor.

A few years after Ruth soloed and gained her pilot's license, she became one of the instructors in a program to train military pilots. This training was held in Princeton.

John Gwinn was a colonel in the United States Air Force. After completing his career, he undertook the project of building a commercial airport in Lewisburg. Once completed, the colonel proceeded to manage the Greenbrier Valley Airport until 1994 when he retired.

In 2009, Ruth and John were awarded the Shepherd's Center of Greenbrier Valley Community Service Award.

Several announcements have already been made regarding the Wings and Wheels Festival. This includes the entertainment that will be present. Festival-goers can look forward to hearing the musical stylings of Tommy Griffith as well as the Greenbrier Academy's African Drummers.

Food will be available at the event. According to an announcement made on the festival's Facebook page, they will be serving BBQ from Stuart's, which is a local restaurant. Limited glamping sites are available at the airport for anyone wishing to stay overnight.

John Hirt of Lewisburg will be present at the event to judge the "wheels" portion of the festivities. In 2019, more than 52 vehicles showed up to participate in the "wheels" portion alone.

For more information on the Wings and Wheels Festival, visit the "Wings & Wheels Festival" Facebook page. To learn more about Ruth Tolley Gwinn, "The Long Runway Home" DVD is available to purchase on www.patchworkfilms.com/longrunwayhome for $20.

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