'Not-So-Gala' Gala at Aviation museum

So, what makes a gala fund-raiser "not so gala?"

According to National Museum of Commercial Aviation Executive Director Grant Wainscott, it is a simple matter of discouraging neckties, and encouraging laid-back attire. It is somewhat like the way a person might dress if he, or she, were going on a long flight, across the country, or across the ocean.

That is the way Wainscott wants people to dress for the museum's second annual "Not-So-Gala" Gala event on Saturday. It will start at 7 p.m., at the National Archives at Atlanta, which is located at 5780 Jonesboro Road, in Morrow.

"We decided we didn't want this to be a ‘black tie and suit' event," Wainscott said. "We wanted the focus to be on the aviation museum, more so than people dressing up. It's a come-as-you-are event. Ties are definitely banned."

The museum holds the fund-raiser every year to help boost its efforts to raise $15 million to build the first phase of the "main campus," that will eventually be its permanent home near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Tickets cost $65 per person, and advance reservations are preferred, Wainscott said. He asked that people make their reservations by Friday. "I need to know how many dinners to have," he said.

Wainscott said there will be a presentation from Nicole Mitchell, the co-host of the Weather Channel show "Weather Center." He said she will speak about hurricane hunting, and the effects of air pressure on an airplane. The event will also serve as a grand opening for a temporary exhibit, on the history of Hartsfield-Jackson, that the museum will have at the National Archives, through September, according to Wainscott.

"It will be a three-month, touring exhibit, called ‘Creating the World's Busiest Airport,'" the museum executive director said. "It will focus on the three men who had the biggest influence on the growth of the airport: Asa Chandler, Maynard Jackson and William Hartsfield."

The museum is currently housed in a 6,000-square-foot, temporary location in a shopping center at 5442 Frontage Road, in Forest Park. The museum's collection contains 40,000 items, including toy airport kits, airplane simulators, toy models of airplanes, in-flight magazines, parts of airplanes (including a lavatory from one plane), uniforms, travel posters and paraphernalia from several airlines.

Walking through the museum, at times, is like going through an airport. The place where people buy their tickets to visit the museum, for example, is set up to look like an airline ticket counter at the airport.

Since it is a fund-raiser for an aviation museum, the "Not-So-Gala" Gala will dole out the aviation references frequently, according to Wainscott. Servers will be dressed in vintage aviation attire, including uniforms for pilots, flight attendants, and mechanics. The drinks will be served from actual airplane beverage carts. "We went with anything we could come up with that is airline-themed," he said.

The food, which will be provided by College Park-based Manchester Arms, will be inspired by airplane meals from 1960s and 1970s, according to Wainscott. He said the menu includes Georgia trout wrapped in parchment paper, braised short ribs, and red curry chicken, with side foods, such as squash potatoes and rice.

While the museum staff continues to raise money to move into an eventual permanent home, Wainscott said the collection will likely be on the move soon. It is expected to move within the next year to another temporary location, with a bit more space, that is next to the spot where the main campus will be.

Wainscott said he hopes to break ground on the 40,000-square-foot, first phase of the campus in the spring of 2012, with an anticipated move-in date sometime in 2013. The main campus will be built in four phases, and eventually have 150,000-square feet of space, he said.

Anyone who would like to attend the fund-raiser, can reserve tickets by calling (404) 675-9266, or stop by the museum in person. It is open Wednesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m., to 4 p.m.