Revisiting an Amazing Year of 70th Anniversary Celebration Initiatives
2018 was a big year for the Boca Raton Airport. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facility opened. A number of community-focused events were held. And through a series of special events, the Airport celebrated its 70th anniversary — a major milestone for the former Boca Raton Army Airfield.
To commemorate the occasion, the Airport organized, hosted, and supported numerous special activities and initiatives that engaged aviation enthusiasts, local students, and the general public, as well as the Airport’s tenants, personnel, and local dignitaries.
Since the Airport’s official founding in 1948, it has uplifted Boca Raton both economically and culturally, helping the city flourish as a hotbed for business, a destination for travelers, and a springboard for pilots. Given the significant role that the Airport has played in the development of this thriving city, it’s appropriate that this year of anniversary celebrations would be just as impactful.
Wings of Freedom Tour 2018
The 70th year kicked off with the Boca Raton Airport and Signature Flight Support hosting the Wings of Freedom Tour from January 22nd to the 25th. Countless excited guests came out to the festivities during the four-day event, where they explored rare WWII-era bomber and fighter aircraft, such as the B-17 Flying Fortress “Nine O Nine,” Consolidated B-24 Liberator “Witchcraft,” and P-51D Mustang “Toulouse Nuts” fighter.
The peak of this year’s Wings of Freedom visit was the January 23rd “Student Day” event, which hosted over 200 guests, including students and veterans. The event began with the Presentation of Colors by students representing the Civil Air Patrol of Boca Raton, which was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance.
Boca Raton Airport Authority Executive Director Clara Bennett gave the opening remarks and recognized the WWII veterans in attendance including Murray Moore, Sid Katz and Richard Stransky.
Bennett was followed by Council Member Andrea Levine O’Rourke, who read the official proclamation from Mayor Susan Haynie, proclaiming January 23rd “Wings of Freedom Day” in Boca Raton.
“Hundreds of thousands of Allied Servicemen and women were instrumental to the war effort resulting in victory over Germany and Japan,” read Council Member O’Rourke. “It is vitally important that we commemorate and honor the sacrifices made by the veterans of World War II so that their valiant efforts to keep America free will never be forgotten.”
After the speaking portion of the event, the students were able to view the aircrafts, visit the displays, and meet with the veterans.
Exemplifying the BRAA’s commitment to the local community, the Boca Raton Airport and Signature Flight Support hosted the Wings of Freedom Tour as a way to honor veterans and inspire students.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Grand Opening
The second major event for the Airport this year was the ribbon cutting ceremony and reception for the U.S. Customs and Protection (CBP) facility. Held on May 30th, the event was attended by some of Florida’s most esteemed dignitaries and business leaders.
Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer kicked off the festivities by cutting the ribbon at the CBP facility. Then, the attendees moved to the reception inside the neighboring Privaira Private Aviation hangar. Shuttle services to the Privaira hangar were provided by Signature Flight Support and Atlantic Aviation.
At the reception, attendees enjoyed light international fare and live steel drum music while representatives from Discover The Palm Beaches and the Bahamian Tourism Board provided information about travel to Palm Beach County and The Bahamas.
The speaking portion of the evening began with Airport Executive Director Clara Bennett thanking the numerous individuals, departments and organizations that helped bring the CBP facility to fruition. She then highlighted the significance of opening a CBP facility in Boca Raton.
“Throughout its history, the Airport has served as a catalyst for economic growth, playing a pivotal role in the development of Boca Raton as a major hub for corporate headquarters and international commerce,” Bennett said. “Beyond the economic impact, the new facility will ultimately be about connecting the Boca Raton Airport to the rest of the world.”
Boca Raton Airport Authority Chair Mitch Fogel spoke next. “I know you’re as excited as we are for what this project represents for the future of the city of Boca Raton, the Boca Raton Airport and this community,” Fogel said. “This project is the result of the cooperative efforts of the Airport Authority, Airport tenants and users, city leaders and our community partners working together towards a common goal.”
Fogel was followed by Mayor Scott Singer, who showcased the role that the Airport has historically played in the growth of the city, as well as the impact that the CBP facility will likely make on further economic growth.
“Boca’s history really begins, in a big way, at this Airport when it was the Army Airfield in the 1940s… it helped us emerge into the flourishing city we are, a city of nearly 100,000, with a business weight much above that,” said Mayor Singer. “We’ve been following this closely and waiting anxiously for the Airport Customs facility to be open. Now that it is, we can be an international attractor of business.” Mayor Singer also stated that “it’s really an opportunity for us to attract corporate headquarters, and to retain and expand on our high paying jobs.”
Airport Executive Director Clara Bennett returned to the podium, stating “this project would not have been possible without the partnership of the entire team at U.S. Customs and Border Protection.” Bennett then introduced Diane Sabatino, Director Field Operations (DFO) for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Miami and Tampa Field Offices.
Sabatino thanked Bennett for her efforts, which she says were instrumental in making the project move quickly. “It may seem like it was a long time to get this project to opening. But from a federal government perspective, we moved about as close to lightning speed as I’ve seen, and (that’s) certainly due to the efforts of everyone involved,” Sabatino said. “These improvements here in Boca Raton demonstrate the benefits that can be achieved when working with key stakeholders, and there’s tremendous value in industry and government working together to find smart, cost-effective solutions while providing the best services possible.”
Privaira President and CEO Clemens Vanderwerf was the final speaker. He thanked everyone involved for their great work, and congratulated them for opening a CBP facility in Boca Raton.
In addition to the speakers, other notable guests included BRAA Board Members Mitch Fogel, Cheryl Budd, James Nau and Gene Folden; County Commissioner Steven Abrams; and City Council Members Andrea O’rourke, Monica Mayotte and Jeremy Rodgers; Wendy Lipsich from the office of Representative Ted Deutch; as well as Tess the CBP service beagle.
The Fabulous Fourth Celebration
For 2018, the Boca Raton Airport Authority was a presenting sponsor for the City of Boca Raton’s annual Fabulous Fourth Celebration. The free event took place at de Hoernle Park/Spanish River Sports Complex and featured a 95’ Super Slide, a 50′ Double Trouble Olympics Obstacle Course, Mind Bender Spinner Swings, an interactive juggling ring, free face painting, and balloon twisting, as well as giant games, kids’ crafts, photo ops, in addition to food trucks serving Tucker Duke’s burgers, hotdogs and tater tots, fried Oreos, cotton candy, and more.
There was even live classic rock n’ roll played by the All-Star Band, as well as a satellite stage that hosted a DJ spinning today’s hit, while kids took part in exciting dance-offs and games.
As a Presenting sponsor of the event, the BRAA hosted a tent that provided free water, sunglasses and other merchandise for attendees, as well as aviation-themed games for kids. At the event, the Airport’s staff interacted with more than 800 excited visitors who enjoyed a wonderful evening of fun and festivities.
Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer and WPBF-TV meteorologist Sandra Shaw led the speaking portions of the evening, where they acknowledged the Airport’s 70th anniversary, as well as the importance of the Airport to the local community.
“We want to say a big ‘thank you’ to tonight’s presenting sponsor, the Boca Raton Airport Authority,” said Mayor Singer. “They are celebrating their 70th year, and they have a lot to celebrate because they just recently opened up a customs facility. That is a huge win for Boca Raton.”
Before the fireworks, Mayor Singer and Shaw were accompanied on stage by Boca Raton City Council Member Monica Mayotte and Airport Executive Director Clara Bennett.
Bennett thanked the City for letting the Airport be a part of the celebration, and encouraged everyone in attendance to stop by the Airport’s booth or to visit the BRAA administration building to learn more about the Airport.
“The airport is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. The history of the Boca Raton Airport and the city is so ingrained,” said Bennett. “We are a vital community partner with the city, and we are just so thrilled that the city allows us to participate in its various efforts, including this one tonight.”
Back to School Drive and Spirit of Giving Back to School Bash
As a dedicated community partner, the Boca Raton Airport Authority strives to strengthen Boca Raton and its surrounding neighborhoods through fundraisers, charitable events, and community outreach. In this spirit, the BRAA worked with the Spirit of Giving Network for a back to school drive that ran from July 5th through the 13th.
In partnership with Garry Madolid of Signature Flight Support and Devin Lawrence of Atlantic Aviation, the BRAA collected five large boxes worth of donated school supplies, which included uniform shirts, socks, shoes, paper, pens, pencils, and glue sticks. The boxes of school supplies were then picked up by Spirit of Giving Network Executive Director Sue Diener and Special Events Coordinator Lindy Harvey, who delivered them to the Village Academy School in Delray Beach, which was the site of the 2018 Spirit of Giving Back to School Bash.
Held on August 4th, the Bash gave over 4,000 at-risk children an opportunity to pick out their new school supplies, receive a free haircut and take part in other activities as they celebrated and prepared for the first day of school. BRAA staff members were onsite volunteering during set up and event days, further extending the efforts of the back to school drive.
Annual Tenant Social
This year, the collecting of the Back to School Drive supplies coincided with the Airport’s Annual Tenant Social, which featured free ice cream from the Boca Raton-based 32 Bubbles food truck.
More than 80 individuals attended this year’s ice cream social representing both air and land side tenants, including associates from The Fairfield Inn & Suites, Boomers, Atlantic Aviation, Signature Flight Support, Boca Aircraft Maintenance and Reliable Jet Maintenance, as well as BRAA Vice-Chair Melvin Pollack and Board Member Cheryl Budd, in addition to two representatives from the Spirit of Giving Network.
The ice cream social provided a nice change of pace for all of the Airport’s tenants and staff to relax and connect with each other while giving back to the community.
Public Art Initiative
On September 27th, the Boca Raton Airport Authority launched its public art initiative with the delivery of a fleet of paper maché planes. The aviation-inspired artwork was delivered by student representatives Sema Thakkar and Colin Rodriguez, as well as Saint Andrew’s Director of Marketing & Communications Dr. Carlos Barroso and Visual Arts Teacher Mr. Ron Garrett.
The planes were created by students from Saint Andrew’s School in Boca Raton, and are now on display in the lobbies of the Airport’s two Fixed Base Operators (FBOs) — Atlantic Aviation and Signature Flight Support.
There are numerous kinds of paper maché planes on display, including a WWII-era French biplane and a modern American A-10 Warthog, which were made by Sema Thakkar and Colin Rodriguez respectively.
The first phase of the community art project was so successful that the Airport is expanding the initiative in 2019. The second phase will include more students from more schools, providing even more opportunities to engage with the educational community of Boca Raton.
By expanding the initiative, the program will go beyond paper maché planes to include aviation-inspired paintings and drawings, as well as arts & crafts from students of all ages from elementary to high school level.
This community art project is designed to build a lasting relationship between local students and the Airport, which is an investment in the future of aviation, as well as the future of each student who is involved.
BRAA Supports Breast Cancer Awareness Month
The Airport understands that a good community partner can positively affect all areas of one’s life. That’s why the month of October was dedicated to promoting breast cancer awareness in hopes that it would encourage more women to get screened and to perform regular self examinations. This awareness campaign was carried out primarily through social media posts that promoted the benefits of early detection and the importance of getting screened.
Veterans Day Festivities
The Boca Raton Airport staff kicked off Veterans Day Weekend by volunteering with the Habitat for Humanity of South Palm Beach County’s Veterans Build Initiative, which provides free home renovations to select veterans. The initiative launched on November 9th at Sand Pine Park, setting the tone for the weekend of festivities that followed.
On November 11th, the Boca Raton Airport Authority partnered with the City of Boca Raton Recreation Services department to host a number of Veterans Day events in honor of those who served. The festivities began with a Veteran Resource Fair, Special Military Tribute Breakfast, and Veterans Day Ceremony at Countess de Hoernle Park, which was sponsored by the BRAA. The fair was open to the public and featured a dozen veteran resource organizations, as well as songs performed by the renowned American Bombshells Patriotic Services.
During the Fair, free breakfast was provided to all veterans in uniform or with military ID, which was sponsored in part by TooJay’s Deli, Panera Bread and Another Broken Egg Cafe. The Junior League of Boca Raton provided volunteer assistance with the food. The Special Military Breakfast was also an opportunity for everyone to give a suggested $5 donation to Habitat for Humanity of South Palm Beach County’s Veterans Build Initiative.
After the Fair, the Veterans Day Ceremony featured speeches from a number of veterans, including BRAA Vice-Chair, Retired Lt. Col. Melvin Pollock. To show appreciation for their service, City officials presented all veterans in attendance with a commemorative City medallion, which was followed by a musical processional by the Highlanders, the Boca Raton Community High School NJROTC, and the Boca Raton Police and Fire Honor Guards. There were also performances by the Boca Raton Community High School Band and the Coastmen Chorus.
That night, the festivities continued with a free Veterans Day Concert held at the Mizner Park Amphitheater. The concert featured “An American Tribute” performed by FAU’s Florida Wind Symphony, which is comprised of 42 professional musicians from throughout South Florida, and is led by the distinguished Dr. Kyle Prescott.
Toys for Tots Drive
From November 1st through December 3rd, the Boca Raton Airport hosted seven drop off locations for the Toys for Tots toy drive, which included Atlantic Aviation, Signature Flight Support, Boca Aircraft Maintenance, Reliable Jet Maintenance, Privaira Private Aviation, the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Boca Raton, and the Boca Raton Airport Authority administration building. Throughout all seven locations, dozens of boxes of toys were collected.
On December 6th, servicemen from the U.S. Marine Corps visited the Boca Raton Airport to collect the hundreds and hundreds of toys that were donated. The toys were then delivered to a Marine Toys for Tots Foundation central warehouse where they were sorted and then distributed to children in need.
Boca Raton Holiday Street Parade
This year’s Boca Raton Holiday Street Parade theme was “Broadway”, so naturally the airport took flight with an amazing Wicked themed float, complete with illuminated clouds and a miniature plane piloted by a witch.
The parade was a true team effort, bringing together tenants, board members, and staff to construct the float, dress up, and march down Federal Highway. Throughout the parade, the Airport’s staff engaged with the audience and posed for pictures with delighted attendees.
70th Anniversary Book
Capping off this incredible year of 70th anniversary celebrations, the Boca Raton Airport Authority (BRAA) compiled a 63-page coffee table book that commemorates the growth of the Airport and the city of Boca Raton during the last seven decades.
The book looks at Boca Raton prior to the founding of the Airport. Then, it examines the growth of the Airport and the evolution of its facilities. In closing, the book gives a glimpse of how the Airport will continue to progress and help the community soar for another 70+ years.
Thank You for a Wonderful 70 Years
Thank you for joining us as we celebrated 70 years at the Boca Raton Airport. In 2019 and beyond, we will continue to help our community soar.