Derry-US link-up for Amelia Earhart 90 celebrations

The 90th anniversary of Amelia Earhart’s historic solo flight across the Atlantic will is to be marked with a transatlantic celebration in Derry where she unexpectedly landed on May 21, 1932.

This weekend, on May 20-21, leaders from Earhart’s hometown in Atchison, Kansas, in the USA - home to the new Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum - will join the Amelia Earhart Legacy Association, in Derry, for two days of 90th anniversary festivities to commemorate Earhart’s groundbreaking flight: one that changed aviation forever, making Earhart one of the most inspiring women in history.

“We are honored to return to Derry for this extraordinary celebration hosted by our transatlantic partners at the Amelia Earhart Legacy Association in Derry,” said Karen Seaberg, founder and president of the Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum in the USA — where Earhart’s dream of flight began.

“We share a commitment to preserve Earhart’s legacy to defy the odds and pursue her dreams that changed aviation forever.”

May 1932... Amelia Earhart rests on her plane after it landed on the outskirts of Derry.

The new state-of-the-art museum, opening in 2023, will immerse visitors in Earhart’s pioneering life. Highly interactive exhibits will feature an opportunity to pilot a virtual reality recreation of Earhart’s 1932 transatlantic flight with challenges mirroring obstacles Earhart overcame to land in Derry.

On May 20, 1932, Earhart set off in her red Lockheed Vega from Harbour Grace in Newfoundland, Canada, intending to fly to Paris. With weather and technical problems altering her course, Earhart landed, on May 21, 1932, in Robert Gallagher’s farm at Ballyarnett on the outskirts of Derry.

“When Amelia landed here, no one had ever seen a woman driving a car, let alone flying an airplane or wearing trousers,” said Nicole McElhinney, co-founder of the Amelia Earhart Legacy Association. “Her fearless spirit was revolutionary, particularly for women, and continues to be an inspiration around the world.”

As part of the 90th festivities in Derry, students from across Northern Ireland will compete in The Amelia Earhart STEM Challenge, hosted by the Royal Academy of Engineering in the Great Hall at Ulster University Magee (10am to 2 pm.) on Friday, May 20. Student teams will build model planes with judging criteria to include the longest flying distance. Karen Seaberg, along with Jacque Pregont, Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum board member and coordinator of the annual Atchison Amelia Earhart Festival, will serve on the judging panel.

Amelia Earhart.

The Amelia Earhart STEM Challenge is organised by Clare Doherty, the great-great granddaughter of Robert Gallagher who owned the farm where Amelia landed on May 21, 1932. The Gallagher family opened their home to Amelia, providing food and a place to sleep. Clare Doherty is Head of Technology at St. Mary’s College in Derry and is the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Connecting STEM Teachers Coordinator.

The winning team will take a helicopter ride over Derry and along the flight path of Earhart’s landing on Gallagher’s farm in Ballyarnett. They will also receive a trophy from the Amelia Earhart Legacy Association.

Other 90th anniversary events in Derry include:

* Amelia Earhart 90th Commemorative World Radio Call from Ballyarnett, May 20-21 — The North West Amateur Radio Club will transmit from the field where Earhart landed, connecting with the Amelia Earhart Memorial Airport in her hometown in Atchison, Kansas, and Harbour Grace, in Canada — along with thousands of radio operators around the world. For more, visit https://www.qrz.com/db/GB0AEL.

* Amelia Earhart Mural Launch, 2 p.m., May 20, Galliagh Co-Op building — A new 48-foot mural by Derry artist Joe Campbell tells the story of Earhart’s historic landing in Derry. The mural will feature Earhart’s flight path, a portrait and one of her inspirational quotes: “But What Do Dreams Know of Boundaries?” For more, visit https://www.studio2derry.com/earhart-mural

* Amelia’s Speakeasy, Walled City Brewery, 6 p.m, May 20 — This reservation-only event will feature Earhart Gin made from hand-picked botanicals from the field where Amelia landed.

* Amelia Earhart Walking Tour, 12:30 pm, Sat., May 21, Visit Derry Information Centre — Tour traces the footsteps of Earhart’s “unscheduled” visit to Derry.

* Amelia Earhart Vintage Fashion Show, 1:30 pm, May 21, GuildHall — The event will showcase pieces from the Amelia Earhart Collection by Christopher Reid, the Derry-born fashion designer known for his TopherLily collection and work with Alexander McQueen.

Nicole McElhinney, along with AELA co-founder Brona Sharkey, visited Atchison as special guest speakers during the 2019 Atchison Amelia Earhart Festival.

“It was a dream come true to come to the U.S. and walk the same streets in Atchison where Amelia grew up,” said Nicole. “All of us in Derry look forward to returning for the grand opening of the Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum in 2023.”

This month, Atchison Mayor Abby Bartlett issued a proclamation recognising Atchison, Kansas, in the U.S. and Derry in Northern Ireland as “bonded by their ties to Amelia Earhart’s beginnings and monumental accomplishments.” It acknowledges their mutual “dedication to honor and recognize the contributions made by Amelia Earhart in aeronautics and to educate and share with others the history and courageous exploits of Amelia Earhart.”

“Amelia faced many obstacles, but she persevered and believed in her dream of flight,” Karen Seaberg added. “With our partners across the Atlantic, we’re committed to sharing Amelia’s story of tenacity and courage to inspire future generations — in Kansas, in Derry and around the globe.”