KINGMAN, Kan. — A dramatic event in the history of human flight is captured on an outside wall of a Main Street building in this thriving Kansas town, about 45 miles west of Wichita. The stunning mural by acclaimed artist Stan Herd depicts hometown hero Clyde Cessna soaring on his maiden flight in his first airplane.
Another chapter of human flight was added to Kingman’s lofty history on Sunday, July 27th, when a select squadron of determined pole-vaulters braved unseasonably chilly temperatures and the threat of rain, and took flight at the first-ever Kingman Street Vault.
Billed as a marquee event at this year’s Kingman County and 4-H Fair, some 20 athletes from as far away as Kansas City, Garden City, and Americus, performed under a towering canopy of cottonwood trees at Riverside Park, across the street from the show lambs and the main fairgrounds, and near to where the tiny tots competed in the traditional toy tractor pedal-pull contest.
The street vault exhibition was the brainchild of Steve Meyer, a Kingman County Fair Board member and father of the state’s top prep vaulter, Nick Meyer. The elder Meyer was assisted by several avid vault coaches and parents, including Denis Fraizer, who was Meyer’s high school coach at Bishop Carroll High School.
Nick rushed home from freshman orientation at the University of Kansas, in Lawrence, to help his dad prepare for the event, hauling the landing pads over from the local high school on a long flatbed trailer. He spent time cheering for the other vaulters at the event before providing a brief aerial exhibition of his own, with a winning vault of 16-0 from a short approach, despite light rain and a gusty headwind.
As a reward for their highest and best efforts, vaulters received copies of Maggie Vaults Over the Moon, the inspirational sports novel by Grant Overstake, which tells the story of the Sunflower State’s high-flying storybook pole-vaulter, Maggie Steele.
“Maggie had a great time at the Kingman County Fair,” the author said. “It brought back so many great memories of her years showing lambs at her own county fair. The hospitality was great and the townsfolk really turned out to support the event, despite the sketchy weather.”
After Cessna built his first plane, he went on to found Cessna Aircraft Company, which is one of the prominent airplane manufacturers in the world. His story is a fitting legacy for the brave youngsters of the Kingman County street vault, who departed from Kingman eager to pursue their lofty dreams as well.
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