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Pitch made to bring Aviation Hall of Fame ceremony to Dayton again

Dayton officials have made a pitch to the National Aviation Hall of Fame to bring back the next black-tie enshrinement ceremony since the decades-long tradition left the region for the first time ever in 2017.

Dayton is one of five contenders for the ceremony this year, according to the NAHF.

The other cities have not been named.

Jacquelyn Powell, president and CEO of the Dayton Convention & Visitors Bureau, confirmed the proposal to regain the enshrinement was sent to the NAHF last week. Details were not disclosed.

Deliberations have started and a decision was expected in the next few weeks, NAHF Executive Director Amy Spowart said in an email Wednesday. The ceremony was expected to be scheduled this fall, although an exact date has not been announced.

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The enshrinement ceremony, dubbed the Oscar’s night in aviation, moved to the Fort Worth Alliance Air Show in Texas last October for one year.

Powell hoped the Dayton region’s reputation as an “aviation mecca” would be part of the draw to bring the ceremony back. The glittering ceremony, which attracted aerospace legends and Hollywood celebrities over the years, was held in the Dayton region every year since 1962, with the exception of last year.

“The event has been held here (in Dayton) many, many times,” Powell said. “The event has been held here for all but one year. We certainly know how to do it well.”

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NAHF officials have said they would like to expand the recognition of the Hall of Fame around the country. In Fort Worth, the enshrinement attracted nearly 600 people and doubled the amount of revenue it usually collects, according to NAHF.

“It expanded the brand and gave notoriety to the National Aviation Hall of Fame and to Dayton itself,” NAHF President Michael J. Quiello said in an interview in November. “Most people did not realize the (Hall of Fame) was located in Dayton.”

The Hall of Fame Learning Center, in the midst of a $5 million capital funding-raising campaign, is inside the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Officials have said they have no plans to move the hall.

Tony Sculimbrene, executive director of the National Aviation Heritage Alliance, said the region has a “50-50” chance to land the enshrinement this year.

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Sculimbrene said the Air Force museum, with its iconic collection of airplanes and spacecraft, would be the premier spot. “You can’t have a better venue than that,” he said.

But enshrinement officials have in the past said they were looking for a larger location.

The NAHF has not contacted the museum recently about returning, but in 2014 the non-profit reserved the venue for dates in 2017, 2018 and 2019, according to museum spokesman Rob Bardua. The enshrinement was held there in 2014, 2015 and 2016 and moved for one year to Texas in 2017.

The Dayton Convention Center, which has hosted the event in the past, could be an alternative, Sculimbrene added.

Sculimbrene added the event did not receive much media coverage when it moved to Fort Worth in 2017. “We would be able to generate more media buzz by having the event in Dayton, Ohio,” he said.

After the decision was made to move the enshrinement, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, announced in early 2017 he would commission a “blue ribbon” panel of community leaders to review the NAHF’s finances and make recommendations on its future. Financial records show the non-profit has lost money for years. He also sponsored legislation that was passed in the National Defense Authorization Act to keep the hall in Ohio.

The panel has not yet released a report.

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