Greg Heckman makes a turn while flying a 1932 Curtiss-Wright Travel Air 12W near the Brodhead Airport. The plane is one of 12 airworthy vintage aircraft owned by the Kelch Aviation Museum in Brodhead. The museum’s board is raising money to build a new museum and education building.


When the Kelch Aviation Museum started its $1 million capital campaign in 2016, Executive Director Pat Weeden was looking for big donors across the country.

But a friend reminded him that this was a community project, and the community is where he would find that money.

She was right.

The museum accepted a $370,000 challenge grant this week from the William S. Knight Foundation, in memory of aviation enthusiast Bill Knight, who died last year.

Knight was the son of Stan Knight, who started Knight Manufacturing, now Kuhn Agricultural Machinery, in Brodhead. He contributed to plans for the future museum prior to his death.

The challenge grant requires the museum to raise $370,000 before the foundation matches it, Weeden said. Once that is met, the museum will have raised enough money to begin construction.

What started as a $1 million campaign has grown into a $1.4 million campaign, Weeden said. Building costs and tariffs on steel have raised the cost of the overall project.

The museum has raised $600,000 since March 2016. The grant and subsequent matching funds will put the campaign just under the goal at about $1.34 million.

The main museum hangar will be named the Bill and Sue Knight Memorial Vintage Aviation and Automotive Building thanks to the grant, Weeden said.

Brodhead has seen some changes since the campaign started two years ago.

The Decatur Lake Golf Course and Cardinal Lanes bowling alley both shut their doors permanently in the last year, leaving an absence of rental hall space in the city, Weeden said.

To fill that need in the community, Weeden chose to turn space in the future museum into a rental hall instead of the originally intended meeting areas and classrooms, he said.

The rental hall will be a primary source of revenue for the museum, Weeden said.

The hall will be named the Kent E. Joranlien Memorial Fellowship Hall. The family of the late Kent Joranlien, a founding member of a chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association, pledged $125,000 for the project.