Over 1,600 visitors in two days

Photo Credit: HOLLY M. GILL - Madras Mayor Melanie Widmer, at right, addresses the crowds gathered for the unveiling of the B-17 nose art on Thursday at the Erickson Aircraft Collection. The new Erickson Aircraft Collection facility opened with a bang on Friday and Saturday, just in time to take advantage of the Airshow of the Cascades' largest crowd ever.

"We had approximately 500 visitors on Friday, and a little over 1,100 on Saturday," said Michelle Forster, assistant manager of the museum, which features the vintage aircraft collection of Jack Erickson.

Mike Oliver, museum manager, said that he'd heard nothing but positive comments about the new facility, which will help them show the collection of about 25 aircraft to its best advantage.

"Everybody was happy," said Oliver, who began moving the aircraft collection from its former home at the Tillamook Naval Air Station Museum to Madras in the spring.

Photo Credit: HOLLY M. GILL - Hope Beel, of Dallas, Texas, the model for the nose art on the B-17, was in Madras for the unveiling.The 64,000-square-foot hangar, which houses the collection and a small gift shop, was finished in May, and opened Aug. 22, at a special, discounted rate for the weekend.

In Tillamook, the museum was housed in a World War II blimp hangar

"Once you bring the size down, it kind of makes it more personable," said Oliver. "Working in that large hangar, there was a lot of dead space. It was cold and dark; the lighting is better (here)."

Forster said that volunteers from the Tillamook museum and from the local community assisted at the opening. "The outpouring of volunteers was great," she said.

"Everybody that came through the door was excited that we were here and we're excited to be here," she said.

At a pre-opening party for community partners, and all those involved in the new facility, the B-17's new nose art, painted by well-known aviation artist Gary Velasco, was unveiled. The model for the art for the "Madras Maiden," Hope Beel, of Dallas, Texas, was flown in for the event.

"They took me out on the P-51," she said. "That was incredible."

The regular hours for the museum will be Thursday through Monday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with regular admission of $9, $8 for seniors, $7 for active-duty military or veterans, and $5 for children from 6-17.

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