Museum of Aviation fundraiser draws almost 2,000

WARNER ROBINS — Hundreds purchased tickets for the 24th annual Museum of Aviation Auction, Raffle and Taste of Local Cuisine hoping they would leave the event as the big winner in the grand prize raffle.

But, as always, the big winner was the museum itself.

“All of this is totally run through public donations,” said Pat Bartness, president of the Museum of Aviation Foundation. “Events like this help with operating costs, and Robins (Air Force Base) helps maintain the buildings.”

Nearly 2,000 people spent their Saturday evening partaking in an open bar and delicacies from local food vendors at the annual fundraiser. Before the night was over, they had opened their wallets for a good cause.

Steve Davison, the fundraising chair for the museum, said preliminary counts saw the museum take in more than the $240,000 made during last year’s event. Among the hot-ticket items in the live auction was a 46-inch Sony flat panel television that went for $1,750 and a hot tub, sold for $5,000. Dozens more items were sold in the live auction, and quite a few went in a silent auction held early in the event.

Davison said the proceeds will go toward continuing to educate the public and gather stories about wars of the 20th century and other moments in aviation history.

“These people (World War II aviators) aren’t going to be around here much longer,” Davison said. “Who’s going to be here to tell their stories? The museum allows people to see and be able to understand.”

The museum was started in 1984 with few relics, but has grown to feature war exhibits, flight simulators and fighter aircraft among its more than 68,000 items. Of note among its 540,000 annual visitors are the 42,000 students from across Georgia who come on field trips to the museum.

“Our job is to inspire these kids to show them what’s out there,” Bartness said. “And change a few lives.”

While the museum had the most to gain from the evening, most attendees were drawn to the event by the chance to win a new car or $20,000 cash.

That prize went to Florence and John Tingerthal of Warner Robins, who bought their raffle ticket Saturday afternoon.

“We just wanted a night out with our friends,” said Florence Tingerthal, who said she and her husband would take the cash prize. “And the museum’s a good thing. We’re here to support it, of course.”

To contact writer Marlon A. Walker, call 923-6199, extension 235.