March 21 Proclaimed John & Nancy Leenhouts Day

Lakeland Mayor Bill Mutz has proclaimed MARCH 21, 2022, John & Nancy Leenhouts Day in the City of Lakeland.

Proclamation: John and Nancy Leenhouts Day

WHEREAS, From its humble 1974 beginnings, a fly-in began for sport aviation enthusiasts, becoming SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo (now one of the largest and most successful aviation events on earth) and hosts 200,000 visitors annually and serves as “Aviation’s Season Opener”; and

WHEREAS, The Aerospace Center for Excellence (ACE), formed in 2014 by SUN ‘n FUN, is the most unique educational aviation campus in the United States with its 14-building Aerospace STEM facility, anchored by the Central Florida Aerospace Academy and the Florida Air Museum, which was established as Florida’s official aviation museum in 2005; and

WHEREAS, Under the inspiring leadership of John “Lites” Leenhouts since 2011, ACE/SUN ‘n FUN created a world-class event venue, built the world’s largest high school flying club, and has consistently increased attendance at the annual SUN ‘n FUN Fly-In; and

WHEREAS, John Leenhouts conceptualized and established the Aerospace Center for Excellence, which is the new home of the Ramus SkyLab Innovation Center, and gave strategic guidance to providing STEM education resulting in the Aerospace Center for Excellence’s emergence as the premier aerospace-based, hands-on, STEM education ecosystem in the nation. This advocacy, influence, and leadership has resulted in ACE/SUN ‘n FUN being recognized as the national leader in educating the next generation of aviation professionals and is the template for other future programs elsewhere; and

WHEREAS, SUN ‘n FUN has become completely debt-free while also providing over $5,000,000 in capital improvements, including transitioning a Boeing 727 into the world’s only fully functional laboratory classroom; and

WHEREAS, Nancy Leenhouts has served as a full partner in making ACE/SUN ‘n FUN a success, playing a leading role during the Annual Fly-In by hosting The 927 Club at the VIP Chalet and using her beautiful voice at many events gracefully singing the National Anthem, and has personally engaged with staff, board members, and stakeholders as an enthusiastic advocate of ACE/SUN ‘n Fun; and

WHEREAS, On the occasion of John Leenhouts’ retirement, it is highly appropriate to recognize their joint contributions to Lakeland during the past 11 years and the positive impact on thousands of aviation enthusiasts, which ensures a legacy of community service and property honors their joint commitment to Lakeland residents on behalf of ACE/SUN ‘n FUN.


Watch the full presentation here:

Support The Mission

The mission of the Aerospace Center for Excellence (ACE) is to “Engage, Educate, and Accelerate the Next Generation of Aerospace Professionals. The SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo and dozens of other events year-round produce the majority of the revenue that goes into supporting this mission. By attending our events, you are helping us deliver top-quality, industry-leading STEM education and scholarship programs to thousands of young men and women each year. The opportunities that ACE provides give young people a competitive edge as they navigate their educational journey that can ultimately lead to a rewarding career in the world’s incredibly diverse and rapidly growing aerospace industry. You can help! Please click the links below to explore how you can share your knowledge and expertise as a volunteer in over 3500 available positions, become a patron of the Florida Air Museum, or donate to assist us financially. Regardless of how you assist, whether by attending our events, visiting the museum or donating financially, we sincerely appreciate your support!

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