Kansas City was celebrating. It was Priests of Pallas week - the Kansas City equivalent of Mardi Gras - and residents were ready to show off their parade floats and dance at the yearly masquerade ball. The P. O. P. organizers and the Kansas City Automobile Dealers Association saw an opportunity to take the celebration in October 1910 to figurative and literal new heights.
The Automobile Dealers had spent $1,581 oiling the Elm Ridge racetrack to prepare it for automobile races, and they had hired Captain Thomas Scott Baldwin to bring his “Red Devil” aeroplane to town for exhibition flights. The motor car races and aeroplane flights were to bookend the Priests of Pallas parade, a parade of local industries, and a masked ball. The festivities would end with a performance by “megaphone minstrels” and lead into the Missouri Valley Fair. A “moving picture man” from the Columbia film exchange of New York City was in town with a camera stationed at Fifteenth and Main to capture the parade on film, and electric lights were in place to illuminate it all. Everything truly was up-to-date in Kansas City.
Heavier-than-air flight wasn't exactly new in Kansas City. Aviator Charles K. Hamilton had flown at the Overland Park Air Field - just one quick ride away on the Strang Line - in December 1909. Other local aviators like J. C. McCallum had been building planes and practicing flights. Captain Baldwin's arrival, however, was to be the first glimpse many citizens had of an aeroplane in flight, and Baldwin was bringing his considerable showmanship along with his famous “Red Devil” biplane. The plane, reported the Kansas City Journal, “could make 100 miles an hour through the air if he should let it out,” and a special demonstration flight for the newspaper men of the town was on the schedule.
Anticipation hung in the air like the rain that had soaked the town all week. The clouds were clearing, the crowds were arriving, and preparations were almost complete. “Kansas City presents a gala appearance for its visitors, the decorations this year surpassing those of other years. It is true they present a somewhat bedraggled appearance this morning, but the P. O. P. committee hopes the sun will come out before the day is over and dry them out.” The sun did come out, as did the crowds, and the skies over Kansas City would never be the same.