Annual auction raises needed funds for Museum of Aviation

wcrenshaw@macon.comJuly 17, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- For many years the annual Auction, Raffle and Taste of Local Cuisine has been a big fundraiser for the Museum of Aviation, but with federal funding cuts its significance is growing.

“It’s probably more important now than it has ever been,” said Pat Bartness, president of the Museum of Aviation Foundation, which puts on the event. “A lot of our funding sources are just out of business now.”

About 1,000 people attended Saturday, the 28th year of the event. They were able to sample food from 34 Middle Georgia restaurants and caterers. They also bid, in silent and live auctions, on items ranging from jewelry to a guitar signed by Hank Williams Jr.

Ticket holders were entered in a drawing in which they could win a new car or $30,000. The first place winner of the raffle was Jim Vance from Bonaire. Vance has until the end of the week to choose his prize. Mike and Alicia Long from Kathleen won the second place prize of $3,000, and Leslie Smith from Bonaire won $1,000 for third place.

In the past, the money raised has mostly gone toward education programs, but now it is also needed more for basic operations, said June Lowe, executive vice president of the Museum of Aviation Foundation.

The foundation funds the education programs, but it also has traditionally staffed the facility on Saturday and Sunday. With the cutbacks, the foundation now also staffs it on Friday.

“We want to keep the museum open every day because it’s so great and so important to our community and to the whole state,” she said.

Terrence Smith and Janet Harvey of Warner Robins were making their first visit to the event and said they will be back.

“It’s very nice, and I’m very impressed with the layout and the whole event,” Harvey said as she sampled some Shane’s Rib Shack barbecue.

They said they wished they had brought more cash because they didn’t know there would be so many auction items that interested them.

Gillian Heuring of Warner Robins said she and her husband, Hal, have been coming to the auction every year for the past six years.

“We don’t get out a whole lot, so this is our annual date,” she said. “We like all the people, and the food is wonderful. It’s just a fun evening.”

They have bought many items in the auction.

“We always come home with something,” she said.

The auction is the second largest fundraiser of the year for the museum, with only the golf tournament raising more. The total amount raised Saturday was not available at time of print.

Bob Dubiel, director of marketing at the Museum of Aviation, said there was an outpouring of support for the museum.

“We just thought it was very successful,” he said. “We were very happy with the turnout and especially all the donations we received from the community.”

Staff writer Jaime Williams contributed to this report. To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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