CRESTVIEW — Sultry jazz music, the aroma of gourmet foods cooking and the pop of wine bottle corks filled the air at Sunshine Aero Test Flight’s hangar at Bob Sikes Crestview Airport Saturday night. More than 200 attendees mingled around tables featuring cuisine from multiple area eateries, wines from around the world, and a variety of goodies up for silent auction.
Laurel Hill resident Edna Gella gazed around the cavernous hangar. Aircraft were festively decorated in white lights, a breeze wafted through the massive doors, and the choice of menu selections was overwhelming.
“I thought $35 was a lot to pay, but when I got here, there was a good band and so much food,” she said. “I am enjoying meeting new people, too.”
Gella’s son Dennis Mitchell, the Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce’s president-elect, said one thing attendees found most appealing was the event’s unusual location.
“I would ask people, ‘Have you ever been to a wine gala in an airplane hangar before?’” Mitchell said. “When they say, ‘No,’ I tell them, ‘There’s a reason. This is the first one.’”
The first chamber-sponsored Wine Gala was set in a festively decorated tent in the chamber of commerce parking lot. Last year, the second annual gala was set in a bank lobby. Who knows where it will be in 2013, organizer Lynn Yort said, but a goal is to highlight member businesses.
Chamber President Karen Hardell drew applause when she evoked the memory of the late chamber President Foy Shaw, who was one of the body’s founders. Shaw was fond of promoting the chamber as well as its businesses in memorable ways, she said.
“Mr. Foy Shaw would’ve loved to have been here tonight,” Hardell said.
Among the night’s offerings were sautéed shrimp over smoked Gouda grits, chicken and sirloin kabobs, smoked grit cakes with braised brisket and red onion relish, barbecued pork finger sandwiches, banana pudding, brownie bites, and tender Peach Albóndigas meatballs in a sauce made of a reduction of Just Peachy, one of Yellow River Winery’s wines.
Joining 14 area culinary partners, wines at 13 tables around the hangar represented five continents, 11 countries and five U.S. states, including Yellow River’s local Florida-made wines.
Dr. Cheryl Jones and Company’s jazz rhythms had attendees cutting the rug with jazz arrangements of favorites like the 1936 Oscar-winner “The Way You Look Tonight,” “Stand by Me,” “Jambalaya on the Bayou” and “My Girl.” As a highlight, jazz musician Saundra Daggs performed her rendition of “Fly Me to the Moon.”
Yort said she and her committee members started working on this year’s gala, themed “Moonlight and Melodies,” in February. The event’s profits would benefit the chamber of commerce’s efforts to advance the Crestview area’s business community.
“Together, we can do much more than we can individually….,” Yort said.
Despite an overall crowd-pleasing experience, one component failed to cooperate: the full moon was rarely visible due to a dense cloud cover, but that didn’t stifle a good time.
“We’ll take 99 out of 100 good things tonight,” Mitchell said.
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