CASA GRANDE — Winter has been a busy season for Nancy and Alan Friedman.
As president of the Casa Grande RC Flyers, Alan would focus in winter months on club activities such as signing on new members, organizing events and arranging fundraisers.
When not busy with the club, the couple would dance.
They were frequent attendees at dances at the Dorothy Powell Senior Center and enjoyed various events and concerts at area recreational vehicle parks. They’d also spend time visiting with their neighbors in the Robson Ranch community.
“We love to dance and have always enjoyed all the activities here in the winter months,” Alan said. “There was always something to do.”
But things are different for the 2020-21 winter season.
About three-quarters of the RC Flyers Club members are winter visitors who live in the area temporarily during the winter months. Many didn’t return this year.
“I’d say about a fourth of the winter visitors didn’t come back this year,” Alan said. “Part of the reason why winter visitors come here in the winter is for the activities. When there are no activities, there’s no reason to come back. There’s nothing happening.”
The couple now spend much of their time doing jigsaw puzzles, streaming movies at home and playing with their new dog, a golden-doodle named Cooper that they adopted as a puppy about five months ago.
“Cooper keeps us busy,” Alan said. “He’s now a 65-pound puppy.”
But the RC flying club still keeps the couple busy.
Although many winter visitors didn’t renew memberships for the 2021 season, the Casa Grande RC Flyers Club still experienced a record jump in membership.
“It’s the opposite of what I expected,” Alan said.
While some of the new enrollments were from other area clubs that closed, Friedman believes COVID-19 is partially responsible for the membership growth.
“A lot of our winter visitor neighbors and club members didn’t come back this winter, but our local residents have been looking for something to do and they’re the ones joining the club,” he said. “It’s safe to be outside and flying is a fun and healthy hobby to pick up.”
The Friedmans are longtime RC model aviation enthusiasts.
Alan took up flying radio controlled airplanes as a hobby at his wife’s suggestion more than a decade ago. The couple went on to help start the Casa Grande RC Flyers about eight years ago.
The local club is an Academy of Model Aeronautics award-winning sanctioned club and an Arizona nonprofit corporation. It follows all AMA safety guidelines and the field meets the Federal Aviation Administration’s location and safety regulations.
Alan serves as the president of the club while Nancy serves as treasurer. Along with other members of the club, the Friedmans are often out in the community, visiting schools and organizations to promote the hobby and encourage young people to explore the science of model aviation.
The Casa Grande RC Flyers recently renewed its lease on its flying field on an 11-acre parcel of land owned by the city of Casa Grande.
The club uses the field for recreational RC flying activities as well as community events including an annual air show, a celebration of National Model Aviation Day, swap meets and other events that often feature contests, games and drone races.
The flying field features a drone race course as well as facilities for RC aircraft.
Events at the airfield have raised money for the Casa Grande Food Bank, Hospice Charitable Fund of Central Arizona, Valley Humane Society, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Sun Corridor and Pets In Need Action League.
Pre-COVID, the club welcomed visitors to its airfield. People would sit on bleachers and watch as model planes and drones raced through the sky. The field is now closed to non-members. But Alan said people still drive out to the club to watch activities.
“We can’t let them into the airfield, but they still watch from inside their vehicles while parked outside the field gate, along the roadway,” he said.
The field is located at 2725 S. Isom Road near Casa Grande Mountain. For more information, visit the club’s website at www.CasaGrandeRCFlyers.com. q