BRODHEAD, WI - Groundbreaking for the Kelch Aviation Museum drew about “500 times” more people Friday than Pat Weeden had anticipated.
Weeden attributed the attendance to good timing.
It was a happy coincidence the general contractors for the new museum were in town the same time as the annual Pietonpol fly-in. It attracts aviation enthusiasts from across the country who fly into the Brodhead Airport on their way to the Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture convention in Oshkosh.
Weeden thought it would be a good weekend to break ground on a project that has been decades in the making.
Crews soon will begin construction of the Kelch Aviation Museum at the Brodhead Airport. The first phase will include a 12,000-square-foot hangar to display 19 vintage airplanes on a rotating basis, Weeden said.
The hangar will be named the Bill and Sue Knight Memorial Vintage Aviation and Automotive Building in memory of Bill Knight, a Brodhead man who died in 2017.
The William S. Knight Foundation last year gave the museum a $370,000 matching grant, which formed the cornerstone of a $1 million campaign to build the museum.
Knight was the son of Stan Knight, who started Knight Manufacturing, now Kuhn Agricultural Machinery, in Brodhead. He contributed to plans for the museum prior to his death.
The hangar should be ready for visitors Oct. 1, Weeden said, but it won’t include the entire museum.
The second phase of the project will bring the museum’s library, archive, meeting space and the Kent Joranlien Memorial Fellowship Hall.
Joranlien died in 2017 and was a supporter of the Brodhead Airport. A memorial fund supporting the airport was started in his name after his death, according to his obituary.
Fundraising for the museum is not over. The effort needs $50,000 this year and $60,000 next year to keep pace with payments from the matching grant, Weeden said.
Weeden and the museum’s board of directors chose to go forward with the first phase now because they had enough money for it and wanted to show aviation enthusiasts and donors they were serious about showing results from the campaign, which started two years ago.
About 100 people have donated to the campaign so far, Weeden said.
Hundreds of people from across the country were at the airport for the groundbreaking. Many were in town for the Pietenpol fly-in.
Several vintage planes were parked on the airport grounds.
As Weeden made his rounds chatting with attendees, a woman approached him and gave him an enthusiastic hug.
“Good job,” she said. “You deserve this, Pat.”
To donate to the Kelch Aviation museum, visit kelchmuseum.org.