Larry Gregory, president and COO of the Lone Star Flight Museum, spent hours Friday night cleaning the museum’s expansive hangar floor in preparation for the museum’s farewell party Saturday.
“I’ve walked miles in this place,” Gregory said. “It’s very bittersweet to leave.”
The museum is closing the site at 2002 Terminal Drive at Scholes International Airport in Galveston and is moving to a larger space at Ellington Airport in Houston.
Lone Star will open its new $38.5 million aviation history museum in a new 137,000-square-foot facility Sept. 2.
“We had a great run,” Gregory said.
More than 1 million visitors came to the museum over the almost 20 years it was in Galveston, and about 4,000 people got to fly with pilots in vintage aircraft, mostly over Galveston, Gregory said.
“We’ve been playing aerial tour guide,” he said. “That was the best part.”
A farewell party lasted all day Saturday with free admission to the museum and an all-American lunch with hot dogs and hamburgers. It was to say thank you to Galveston residents, Gregory said.
About 30 volunteers came Saturday to help with tours, serve food and share memories.
“I’m really grateful to have so many great volunteers,” lead volunteer Emily McGowan said. “I don’t have to beg.”
They’ll continue volunteering at the Ellington site, she said.
The museum opened in 1990 and in 1995 was declared by state lawmakers the home of the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame.
It leased the land for the old museum from the city of Galveston and remains responsible for the lease until it expires in 2029, although it could sell the lease to someone else, Galveston Airport Director Michael Shahan said in June.
The museum and its collection were badly damaged in 2008 when Hurricane Ike pushed more than 6 feet of floodwater into the building. Museum officials in 2011 announced plans to move to Ellington, citing greater protection from storms.
The new facility will have three galleries featuring interactive and educational exhibits on the concepts of flight, officials said.
It houses two hangars with more than 20 aircrafts, including a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, North American B-25 Mitchell, Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, Chance Vought F4U Corsair and Douglas DC-3, according to the museum.
The museum at Ellington also will feature an Aviation Learning Center for Texas students.
Pilots will ferry airplanes to the new facility sometime in mid-August, Gregory said.
Rob Parrish, a museum board member, flew in a Beechcraft T-34 trainer to be at the event. He brought his daughter, Christine Parrish, 12.
“I’m learning to fly,” Christine said. “I have to be 16 to get my pilot’s license. I’m not allowed to get my driver’s license until I get a pilot’s license.”
The museum is cool because of its variety of aircraft on display, Christine said. She’s especially fond of the B-17.
The theme of the day was expressing appreciation for Galveston, Gregory said.
“No one did anything here to make us go,” he said. “We are really appreciative. And the Galveston Island CVB has been just great. We are moving to better protect our assets and expand our mission.”
One thing in particular sticks out to Gregory, and he wants all Galveston residents to know what it is.
“Visitors always comment on how friendly people are in Galveston,” he said. “Always.”