Harmon Field Day
This page is from a heritage partnered project. It was written in 1998 by students from Stephenville Integrated High School and edited by their teachers. It has not been vetted by the heritage website's academic editor.
Harmon Field Day is an event that takes place every second summer in the town of Stephenville, Newfoundland. It is a day that celebrates the history of the Earnest Harmon Air Force Base, operated by the United States military from 1941 to 1966. Harmon Field Day is a significant day for Stephenville in that it brings the past and the present closer together.
The tradition of Harmon Field Day initiated with a discussion among the members of the town council of Stephenville in 1985. The next year, 1986, would mark the twentieth anniversary of the closing of the base. In honor of the historical date, the town council decided to hold a reunion for the military personnel that once worked at the base. As part of the celebrations, American military aircraft were invited to put off an air show to be enjoyed by the public. The reunion was a great success and it was decided, after much discussion, that it would be profitable for the town of Stephenville to hold an event like this every two years. The people involved with the first one felt that this was an excellent idea. Ever since, there has been an Harmon Field Day every other year, the last one occurring in 1996.
During the days surrounding Harmon Field Day, several activities take place in the area. The highlight of the entire celebration is an air show involving military aircraft. In 1996, forty-two aircraft, the largest number ever, were involved in the show and display. As each plane arrived, it put on a demonstration for the crowd that had gathered to welcome it. At the Sunday show, on July 21, 12,000 people assembled to witness the exhibition. Although there were some problems, the spectators were thoroughly entertained. The public was also invited to talk with the pilots and crew members, an activity which everyone involved enjoyed. In 1990, in addition to the aircraft display, there was a Canadian Coast Guard's aerial search and rescue display and parachuters. Other events which have taken place during Harmon Field Day include: a Sunday social, visits from local comedian "Ned, the Newf" (actually committee member, Scott Hurley), and a display of base memorabilia and charts and maps of Newfoundland, Labrador and Sable Island drawn by Captain James Cook. These activities entertain the residents of the Stephenville area and draw tourists to the region.
Harmon Field Day holds a special significance for people of all ages. It offers a rare privilege to the children of the area. As Bob Byrnes wrote to a Western Star reporter: "One of the advantages of having the show is that younger children have the chance to see sophisticated equipment they normally wouldn't have the chance to see in this province." Harmon Field Day creates memories for the young generation while it stirs up the memories of the older generation. For these people, the day is reminiscent of when the base was in operation. The day also creates a paradise for aircraft lovers and an atmosphere that promotes good moods and smiles all around. Not only is the day special for the spectators, but for the pilots and crew members as well. They enjoy performing for the crowd and answering their questions. They come back year after year because of the excellent hospitality that they receive. For one pilot, Capt. Tim Hassel, Harmon Field Day has provided the chance to realize a dream. He was born to Charles Hassel, an American sergeant, and Lorna Janes, a Newfoundlander, while Charles worked on the base. Capt. Hassel lived in Stephenville until he was in grade two and then moved to New Jersey with his parents. He visited Stephenville several times during his childhood, keeping his Newfoundland heritage alive. At the 1996 Harmon Field Day, he reached his dream of coming back, flying a fighter jet. Overall, Harmon Field Day reminds and teaches the people of the Stephenville area of their history and culture, and at the same time is advantageous for the town's economy.
Harmon Field Day is a special event that requires a lot of work. Behind the scenes, there is a hard-working and dedicated committee and many volunteers. The cooperation of the United States Military and the support of the businesses in the town are vital to the day's success. Without these efforts, this occasion, which brings people together to discover history, culture, and knowledge in a relaxed atmosphere, would not be possible.