The weekend celebrations surrounding the International Forest of Friendship will look quite different next weekend.

In light of increasing concerns about the Delta variant of COVID-19, the International Forest of Friendship Committee has shifted this year’s celebration at the International Forest of Friendship on Saturday, Sept.18, to a virtual event, rather than an in-person ceremony.

The Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum is canceling the public tour hours previously scheduled for September 17 and 18 as well, but private tours are still available by appointment.

“We are sorry to have the cancellation but understand the concern of the recent COVID rise,” Treasurer of Atchison Amelia Earhart Foundation Jacque Pregont said. “We have also canceled our tours those days for the same reason. We are still happy to have private tours by appointment.”

A bicentennial gift to the United States from the Ninety-Nines and the City of Atchison, this year marks the 45th birthday of the Forest.

Twenty new honorees have been selected for induction into the Forest’s Memory Lane for their contributions to aviation and space. Capturing this year’s theme of “World Friendship Through Flight,” the virtual event will feature an introduction of this year’s honorees and an online show celebrating the exciting opening of access to space for ordinary citizens and a video capturing the changing of the seasons at the Forest. For information on accessing this virtual event, email or call 913-367-1419.

Locally, an open house for children and families will be held from 10 a.m. until noon at the Forest on Saturday, Sept. 18, at the Forest. Smokey the Bear will make his yearly visit for photos with children. Activities, including straw rockets, whirly-gigs, scavenger hunts, and more, will be available throughout the Forest with participation patches for all children.

The Ninety-Nines, an organization of women pilots with chapters across the globe, partners with the city of Atchison in the annual celebration. The International Forest of Friendship captures the spirit of Amelia Earhart’s quote, “You haven’t seen a tree until you’ve seen it’s shadow from the sky,” and the 99’s motto of “World Friendship through Flying.”

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