Blistering sunshine on newly poured tarmac didn't stop thousands of people from biking, scootering, skating, running and walking on Blue Grass Airport's new runway Sunday.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Joni Hagan, who walked the 1.4-mile circuit of the 4,000-foot runway and taxiway in a stiff breeze that cooled the rays.
"It's great," agreed bicyclist Ann Smith. "I've never seen a runway from this dimension before, looking out at Keene land and seeing planes land."
In fact, so many people showed up to the event, part of the Second Sunday series, that parking at the new runway filled up, forcing folks to park at Keeneland Race Course, across Versailles Road, and take shuttle buses.
Based on traffic flow and parking, not a head count, Lexington police Sgt. Pat McBride estimated that as many as 15,000 people attended.
The new runway encompasses a 200-acre tract west of the terminal and should be finished by August, said airport Executive Director Eric Frankl. It is built for general aviation, or private planes, and will have parking and hangars reached by an entrance on Versailles Road about a mile past the airport. It's expected that the runway will get plenty of use during the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games this fall at Kentucky Horse Park.
Frankl and Urban County Councilman Jay McChord came up with the idea for the airport to host the Second Sunday event. McChord has organized the monthly events to get people outside and moving; they are usually held downtown on closed-off streets.
"We just thought this would be a great way to experience the airport in a different way," Frankl said.
"It's such a unique opportunity to hold the event here," said Renee Jackson, director of Downtown Lexington Corp., which has helped with the Second Sunday events. "I couldn't be more pleased with the turnout."
The large turnout meant plenty of bottled water was necessary. Organizers set up tents around the circuit where exercisers could get some shade and some liquids.
Michelle Thompson of Danville had the foresight to bring an umbrella to shade her young children, Will and Shelby, in their stroller. Thompson had dropped her husband off for a flight and then drove down to the event. Her son, Will, was thrilled to see the antique planes parked at the end of the runway, courtesy of the nearby Aviation Museum of Kentucky.
"It's great," she said. "You don't get to see anything like this, well ... ever."
Reach Linda B. Blackford at (859) 231-1359 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 1359.