A top state leader and Dayton aviation boosters lobbied National Aviation Hall of Fame leaders Thursday to keep a decades-old enshrinement ceremony in Dayton instead of considering moving it out of state.
The black-tie event, dubbed “Oscars night in aviation,” has lost money in recent years and organizers have considered relocating the enshrinement of aviation notables to a new locale out of state, organizers have said. A decision, expected Thursday, was postponed until Dec. 15.
Fort Worth, Texas, is a potential site where the enshrinement ceremony could move, according to Tony Sculimbrene, executive director of the National Aviation Heritage Alliance.
“That bullet has been dodged for at least the next two weeks,” he said.
Meeting for four hours behind closed doors Thursday in what was described as an emotional meeting, National Aviation Hall of Fame leaders decided to explore keeping the yearly enshrinement ceremony of inductees at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson.
They also want to see what financial support the Dayton region and Ohio will offer to defray the cost of the black-tie event, according to Ron Kaplan, enshrinement director.
The ceremony has faced lackluster financial support locally, and sponsorships and ticket sales in recent years have failed to cover costs, organizers have said.
Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger called the Hall of Fame trustees during the board meeting Thursday to lobby to keep the enshrinement in Dayton.
“I offered to help wherever I can. I didn’t offer to get into any kind of state assistance, specifically taxpayer dollars exclusively, but definitely whatever I can lend my voice and help to support their event, I told them we would do that,” he said in an interview with this newspaper, adding a number of federal and state lawmakers were ready to help.
State Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek, who said he was in the room with Rosenberger when he made the call, said moving the enshrinement was “unacceptable.”
“We need this to stay here,” Perales said in a phone interview. “This is the birthplace of aviation and the enshrinement belongs here at the (Air Force) museum and we need to come together to make sure this happens.”
Trustees were asked to slow down a final decision, he said.
“Speaker Rosenberger dropped everything on his calendar to make sure they understood that there’s nothing more important (and) that we cannot and will not lose the enshrinement ceremony,” Perales said. “Sure, it could happen, but it’s not going to happen without a fight.”
The induction ceremony, a who’s who of aerospace legends, has remained in Dayton since it launched in 1962.
For a year, NAHF trustees have reviewed possible locations where the enshrinement might relocate, Kaplan said.
“There was a number of communities that were explored and several were contracted and the decision on (Dec. 15) will be to stay here or go to one of those welcoming communities,” he said.
Fort Worth Alliance Air Show organizers have expressed interest in a one-time NAHF enshrinement ceremony. “It’s all very early, very preliminary and nothing is confirmed at all,” air show spokesman Randy E. Pruett said Thursday. The Texas air show is scheduled in October.