Ornate Creations to be on Display at Free Town Center Gallery Exhibition

A vegetable harvest put to canvas, a slew of floral-patterned silk scarves, and a watercolor rendering of Central Coast cliffs: Each is a sampling of what visitors to the Town Center Gallery at the Radisson Hotel in Santa Maria will see Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Guests are welcome to the all-member exhibition of fine art, photography and three-dimensional crafts and sculpture, which will be held in the large meeting room adjacent to the main lobby of the hotel with an artist’s reception planned from 3 to 5 p.m. Participating crafters will include Hattie Stoddard, Beverly Johnson, Barbara Shepherd, Claudette Willard, Sharon Foster, Pat Stalter, John Card, Stephanie Palomarez, and Deborah L. Hildinger.

The principle purpose of the event is to bring art to the community through ongoing exhibits at the Santa Maria Airport and at the Radisson Hotel. The gallery also provides a scholarship each year for aspiring student artists and art-related workshops for children at the Santa Maria Public Library.

The exhibit bears especial significance to the community, according to Deborah Hildinger of Young Designs: Contemporary Fine Art.  “It provides a venue for the community to view and hopefully purchase the work of local artists in this area. It also provides a chance for the community to come and meet the artists,” she said.

Visitors can expect to peruse paintings on paper and canvas, watercolors, photography, painted silk scarves, prints, and crafts such as gourd vessels.

Hildinger wants the exhibit to become a recurring event.  “We are hoping that this will become another one of the gallery’s venues on a continuing basis that provides affordable arts and crafts to the community,” she said. “In addition, we want to bring to the public’s attention our vision to once again have a permanent gallery space.”

The success of exhibits like these, she said, depends on community support.  “ … We need community support from individuals, organizations, and companies to have this vision come to fruition.”

The Radisson Hotel is located at 3455 Airpark Drive beside the Santa Maria Public Airport.

For more information contact Hildinger at 805-264-5183 or email lvtwmn1@verizon.net.

 2/28/14  Santa Maria Times

Santa Maria Company ArtCraft is Behind Colorful Airplane Paint Job

2014-01-11T01:00:00Z Brilliant mural Hawaii-BoundBen Miller/bmiller@santamariatimes.com Santa Maria Times

In its first collaboration with Eugene, Oregon-based airplane artist and former aviator John Stahr, ArtCraft hopes to complete work on a mural for a Hawaii-bound tour plane on Monday. 

The mural depicts Hawaiian goddess of fire, Pele, coming out of a volcano on the right side of the Cessna’s tail and a hula girl with water flowing through her hands on the other. The scenes then descend onto the fuselage, depicting waves, a whale and islands in the distance.

Stahr has worked 12-hour days on the project for about five days in preparation for the plane flying to the Aloha State for use in the Big Island Air Company. ArtCraft, which is located by the Santa Maria Public Airport, has painted aircraft and worked on their interiors for more than 20 years, according to customer support representative, Michael Spingler.

The group is currently doing work for clients from Brazil to Idaho. While some clients seek simple stripe designs, he said projects like the colorful Hawaiian mural is what he hopes they will ask for.

“I like to see our customers come in here for a radically beautiful paint job,” Spingler said.

January 11, 2014 •  Ben Miller/bmiller@santamariatimes.com

Crowd at SM Airport Welcomes First Returning Military Members of 2014

2014-01-05T00:55:00Z Veterans, civilians greet Vandenberg-based airmenBen Miller/bmiller@santamariatimes.com Santa Maria Times

When Rich Theis was in the Air Force in the 1970s, he saw soldiers and service members come home to disgust.  “When a lot of the guys came home from Vietnam, they were met at the airport by booing, hissing, spitting people,” he said.

On Saturday, he personally showed up to provide a more positive response. Theis was one of about 60 people who stood in the Santa Maria Public Airport terminal, waving flags and shouting “Welcome home!” as four airmen arrived from a six-month deployment to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“I didn’t want them coming home to an empty terminal and nobody saying ‘Thanks for your service,’” Theis said.

The four Air Force members were Senior Airmen Max Morell and Jordan Scott and Staff Sgts. Todd Zahler and Owen Coulombe, all assigned to the 30th Civil Engineer Squadron at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

It was the first time the organizing group, Welcome Home Military Heroes, greeted returning service members in 2014, according to co-founder Cheryl Tolan. Since the Tolan family attended the first 10-person welcoming in 2010, the organization has held events for more than 500 men and women.

The group was set to hold a second event late Saturday night for two more returning service members, and will host a third Friday.

The crowd of supporters, ranging from young children to World War II veterans, cheered and waved a sea of flags as the four men walked into the airport Saturday afternoon. A line of participants steadily shook their hands and gave thanks for their service in between the airmen signing Welcome Home Military Heroes flags, posing for pictures and greeting friends.

The airmen didn’t expect the crowd of people waiting for them, and all wore smiles when they first saw the mass of participants waving flags and signs. Coulombe said he never received a welcome like that one after he returned from a previous deployment to Iraq.

Morell, who has been deployed three other times, said this greeting was more personal than any he’s experienced.  “It’s definitely a morale booster,” Morell said. “I’m very happy to see them. I’m glad we can affect the community like that.”

Several of the people in the crowd were wearing the leather jackets and patches of the Patriot Guard, and more were veterans. But Theis said anybody can and should show their support for returning service members.  “Anybody can show up,” he said. “You know, you don’t have to be on a bike. You can be in a car, you can be on a freakin’ tricycle. You don’t have to be military. You just show up and say thanks.”

January 5, 2014 •  Ben Miller/bmiller@santamariatimes.com

I would like to thank all who made the idea of a Military Wall of Honor a reality.

Thanks to the Santa Maria Public Airport District Board of Directors for setting aside a special area for this tribute. Thanks to the Airport’s General Manager Chris Hastert, the Chamber of Commerce President Bob Hatch, and Economic Development Commission Chairman David Cross for helping coordinate the design and the effort to get it established. The Chamber of Commerce also fronted the funds to get this tribute dedicated in time for the Veteran’s Day weekend.

Thanks to all those who donated with me so the Chamber could be reimbursed in full for the cost of the flags.

Thanks to Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian for taking part in the dedication on Nov. 8, and Congresswoman Lois Capps for presenting an American flag flown over the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Finally, thanks to all past, present and future members of our armed forces for your dedication to your country. You are the reason this tribute exists!


January 2, 2014  Hugh Rafferty

Capps Presents Flag to be Mounted on Airport Display

An American flag that once waved over Capitol Hill now will make its home at the Santa Maria Public Airport, where the Wall of Honor has slowly been taking shape during the past few months.

Congresswoman Lois Capps presented the flag Friday to Hugh Rafferty, the driving force behind creating the military tribute inside the airport terminal.  “Whether you’re coming or going, this is the last image that you see,” Capps said about the Wall of Honor that displays the flags of every branch of the military, as well as a POW/MIA flag. “Aren’t you proud?”

The flagpoles stand in front of a large American flag backdrop, honoring all military service members. Additionally, the area provides a patriotic place for individuals to snap photographs when welcoming or seeing off military members.

Chris Hastert, Airport General Manager, said the space that’s situated in the waiting area is often used by military families that pose for pictures in front of the flags.  “We see that a lot on our Facebook page,” Hastert said, adding airport management also has received positive feedback about the wall from community groups that stage military welcome home events at the facility.

The small airport greets numerous returning military members throughout the year, in part, because of its close proximity to Vandenberg Air Force Base.

About 30 people — close to half military veterans — gathered inside the terminal for Friday’s flag presentation. Capps told the group she specifically requested the flag be flown over Capitol Hill before bringing it to the Central Coast.

“I am honored to present this flag to be displayed on the military Wall of Honor,” she said. “This living tribute will serve as a reminder of all the men and women who have sacrificed to keep our country safe.”  The congresswoman also said the airport was the perfect home for the flag, which will be professionally encased and mounted on the wall.  “I don’t know of a city on the Central Coast that’s more patriotic than Santa Maria,” she added.

Rafferty got the idea for the wall after seeing a banner in the airport waiting area that read ‘Welcome Home.’  “If you weren’t looking up, you didn’t see it,” he said. “I thought it wasn’t good enough. We needed to do more.”  The Marine Corps veteran also said he was speechless when he learned Capps would be presenting the flag in person at the airport.  “It’s beyond words,” Rafferty said. “I expected to get a package in the mail.”

The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and other community leaders also helped make the project become a reality. Funding — about $2,000 — for the wall was donated by local residents, Rafferty said.

Marty McGrath, a Navy veteran and member of the U.S. Marine Corps League, attended the flag presentation ceremony and said her heart swells with pride every time she looks at the Wall of Honor.  “This will be really nice,” McGrath said. “I love the size of that big (American) flag.”

December 21, 2013  •  April Charlton/acharlton@santamariatimes.com

Santa Appears as Allegiant Air Holds Gift Drive at Santa Maria Airport

Allegiant Air held a drive that brought in more than 35 donations for the Make-A-Wish Foundation on Thursday at the Santa Maria Public Airport.

The airline collected donations in the form of toys and travel items for children whose wishes involve traveling, said Airport District General Manager Chris Hastert. Allegiant Air also gave out two free tickets to Las Vegas to a person who donated to the drive.

The airline partnered with Make-A-Wish at the airport last year as well, Hastert said. The company also is running a promotion for the charity online — it filmed a crew painting the Make-A-Wish logo onto one of the airline’s new planes and then started donating $1 for every view the video receives on YouTube, Hastert said.

Make-A-Wish fulfills the wishes of children with serious illnesses and disabilities.

Tyler Brooks, his wife and two children drove to the airport from Arroyo Grande to donate bath toys. Brooks said they heard about the event through his wife’s cousin, who works at the airport.  His children also were excited to come, because it meant they could take a photo with Santa Claus, who sat next to the donation table complete with a printer to churn out pictures.  “Of course, they’re always excited when Santa’s in town,” Brooks said.

Santa Maria Times – 12/20/13

Multiple Agencies Supported Creation of Wall

2013-11-09T01:20:00Z Wall of Honor for military members dedicated at airportBen Miller/bmiller@santamariatimes.com Santa Maria Times

Every month, about 8,000 people come through the Santa Maria Public Airport. Many of them include military members, some of whom are coming back home.  All of them will now walk by a tribute to the nation’s military men and women.

A gathering of about 30 people watched on Friday as community leaders dedicated the airport’s new Wall of Honor, which sits just inside the front entrance to the terminal. The wall features eight flags on poles representing each branch of the military, prisoners of war and those missing in action, the state of California and the United States. All eight flagpoles are in front of a large American flag backdrop. 

Hugh Rafferty, a member of the Marine Corps League, originally came up with the idea.  “As I walked through this terminal one day, with the general manager of the airport, (I saw a banner) … up here that said ‘Welcome Home,’” Rafferty said. “When I looked at it, I thought that wasn’t good enough for what these people do.”  Rafferty, the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce and other community leaders helped to make the wall a reality.

“This will just give (returning service members) an awesome place to take some pictures, enjoy the moment with their family,” said Chris Hastert, the airport’s general manager, during the dedication.

Jack Pellerin, whose only brother died while serving on a Merchant Marine ammunition ship in World War II, gave an invocation during the ceremony.  “I have great respect for all veterans,” Pellerin said.

Rafferty said the airport services quite a few returning military members because of its proximity to Vandenberg Air Force Base, but that the wall will exist for all people coming into the region through the airport.  “This is really a tribute to all military men and women, past, present and future,” he said. “This is not a memorial, this is (an) everyday (way) to say ‘thank you.’”

November 9, 2013 1:20 a.m. • Ben Miller/bmiller@santamariatimes.com

Interest Being Shown in Long-Desired Development

The Santa Maria Airport Business Park, a long-sought development at the Public Airport, is up for discussion when the Board of Directors meets today at 7:00 p.m.

The plan for the park, which began life decades ago as the Santa Maria Research Park, is attracting enough attention lately that the board will discuss forming an ad hoc committee to meet with interested business people, General Manager Chris Hastert said.

“We’re at a point where we need to start figuring out how we’re going to move forward with the business park,” Hastert said. “(A committee) allows us to have some division of the board and staff that can meet with businesses that are interested in coming here.”  The committee would consist of two members of the Board of Directors and staff, and would allow it to gauge interest of potential investors without violating the state’s open meetings law, or Brown Act.

The plan for the Research Park was approved in 1995 and updated, revised and renamed the Airport Business Park Specific Plan in 2008. It is a 20- to 30-year development for 740 of the airport’s 2,598 acres that would include light industrial, manufacturing and commercial businesses. Retail businesses, office development and an 18-hole golf course were also a part of the plan.

Hastert said he couldn’t identify any businesses that have contacted him, but added that forming a committee to meet with prospective tenants would be a good idea.  “There’s nobody who wants to go public because they’re looking at other opportunities throughout the city,” he said. “But we’re close enough that I think we should get some things going.”

Development of the park has been slowed to a salamander’s pace because of environmental concerns over endangered species found on the property. The Airport District is working with the Department of Fish and Wildlife to get approval to develop the park.

Approximately 100 acres will be set aside for California Tiger Salamander habitat and nearly 70 percent of the property will be left as open space.

The board will also get a report on its 2012-13 independent financial audit, consider a contract with Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to replace parking lot lighting, and award a pavement repair contract.

The pavement project will repair cracks in the terminal ramp and replace a section of taxiway.  Nine local companies provided bids that ranged from $93,273.08 to $169,738.10. T. Simmons Co. provided the low bid which was $19,000 less than the engineer’s estimate.


October 24, 2013  Brian Bullock/bbullock@santamariatimes.com

First Responders Flex Their Disaster Plans in FAA Exercise

A simulated passenger plane crashed Monday at Santa Maria Public Airport left between 40 and 50 dead or injured and emergency services personnel scrambling.

The fiery crash was an exercise required every three years by the Federal Aviation Administration to test local emergency response.  It utilized a full-size mockup of an airplane fuselage. The wall of flames, fueled by propane inside and outside of the fuselage, proved the biggest test for firefighters and their new $1 million fire truck.

The Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) truck, which the Santa Maria Public Airport District bought with help from an FAA grant, was designed for such a disaster. It has the capability to punch a hole in the fuselage of an airplane and spray water or foam inside to extinguish a blaze.

“We’re exercising the whole Santa Barbara County (Mass Casualty Incident) protocol,” said Battalion Chief Rick Bertram. “We have a brand new crash rig, Rescue 61, so it’s been exciting for us to be able to operate that.”

As if both interior and exterior fires weren’t enough to handle, firefighters did their work to the chilling recorded screams of crash victims pleading for help.

For local emergency responders, it’s a chance to exercise all of their training under live fire conditions.  “Usually, when we train we do it in pieces. This gives us a chance to put all of those pieces together,” said Santa Maria Fire Chief Dan Orr, who had an entire shift of firefighters working the drill.

In addition to city firefighters — Station 6 is at the Airport — Santa Barbara County Fire and Sheriff’s Departments, Guadalupe Fire, American Medical Response ambulances, Cal Star helicopters, Marian Regional Medical Center and even agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation were part of the drill.

“Communication is a big part of every incident and it actually will determine if the incident went well or not,” Bertram said.

General Manager Chris Hastert, who ran the airport’s emergency response center on the opposite side of the airport, said he thought the drill and communication went well. He said the Red Cross also helped out, setting up a mock family response center in the Santa Maria Radisson.  “Personally I’ve learned a few things I could do better in my response,” he said. “I don’t have as much experience operating an emergency response center as some managers.”  Hastert said he’d be scheduling some additional training soon.

PCPA costume and make-up artists also played a big role in the drill, decorating approximately 50 college students and other volunteers with a variety of gruesome injuries ranging from cuts and burns to torso impalement. Following the crash, bodies littered a field near the drill site.

Bertram said it’s the job of emergency responders to limit the numbers of casualties.  “It’s really about life safety for the victims and also the rescuers,” Bertram said. “We learn something new each time.”

10/8/13 •  By Brian Bullock/ bbullock@santamariatimes.com

Santa Maria Public Airport District requests your help in gathering the travel needs of businesses in this area. 

Please participate in this survey in the link below: