Many pilots admit to a fondness for $100 hamburgers, but fancier fare was on the menu Friday at the Chico Airport.
Billed as a “fly-in or drive-in” event, the first of what organizers hope will become an annual spring cioppino feed attracted hundreds to the Northgate Aviation Hangar for lunch, plane perusing and a silent auction. This year’s beneficiary is the North Valley Boys & Girls Club.
Tiger Jones, who flew up from Biggs in his ToyCat, said he’s partial to pricey lunches when it means an opportunity to fly but even more so when it supports a good cause. A crop-duster by trade, he’d rather it be raining but said the weather was perfect Friday to go sky high.
“You just like to fly,” he said. “Anytime you get that chance to fly, you take it.”
Event organizer Rob Ramey had the idea to start a community-based fundraiser about a year ago but wanted something “fun,” as in “fun, unique and new,” he said. With little demand for another tri-tip dinner, he thought of three unusual elements — fresh fish stew, lunchtime and an airport hangar venue.
The mission of the Chico Cioppino Feed is to annually raise funds for an organization that is fiscally responsible and effective in its mission. The goal is to raise $50,000 this year, and $200,000 by year three, Ramey said. More than 360 $100 tickets were sold for Friday’s event, with additional funds to come from a silent auction, sponsorships and hot air balloon rides by Sky Dancer Balloon Service.
He mailed fliers to 150 airports to advertise, hoping people would fly in for the feast. Meeting his wish, some pilots taxied down from other Chico Airport hangars, some made the short trip from the Ranchaero Airport across town, and others coasted in from nearby communities.
Leif Fields enjoyed a 10-minute flight from Oroville in his Cessna 182.
“I’m a big fan of $100 hamburgers,” he said with a smile, in a reference to what pilots spend on fuel when flying someplace simply to eat. “You have something at an airport and it’s an excuse to go flying.”
With about two dozen planes poised strategically on the tarmac, music drifted from the World War II-era hangar, where tables were stretched end to end waiting to hold deep bowls of seafood stew. Supporters wandered wing tip to wing tip to admire a 1938 Aeronca and Airspray’s Fire Boss, as well as an array of two-seater, four-seater and six-seater planes.
att Holman with PJ Air said it was his first time attending an event like this, and noted he spent more time prepping the plane than the nine-minute flight from Red Bluff. He hoped his attendance would be a way to attract potential clients to the chartered air service.
“Even if we don’t get anybody out of this, it’s still worth it coming down and meeting people,” he said.
Alicia Rock, whose family owns the Northgate hangar, is also on the Boys and Girls Club board of directors. She was thrilled by the event.
“Not only are we investing in our community and our youth … but to share what the airport is and some of the passions of the people here — who flies and what they fly — it’s really fulfilling,” she said.
It’s also an opportunity to highlight the Chico Airport’s role in general aviation at a time when people think the loss of commercial air service equates to the end of the airport, Rock said.
“It’s a very narrow-minded view of what this airport is to think commercial service is the be-all, end-all,” she sad. “This is a thriving airport.”