Interest in Bakalar air museum boon for city

If Columbus’ Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum has been the “best-kept secret in town,” that title isn’t likely to last much longer with its growing number of visitors. The secret is getting out.

With more visitors coming in the afternoon and wanting to stay past the 2 p.m. closing time, it only made sense to extend the hours.

The museum’s board of directors made a wise move to expand the hours of operation this spring — a great benefit for local tourism. The museum now is open 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

The growing demand to see the museum’s artifacts and displays was its own doing. A renovation that started in September 2013 and ended last spring added a library, a conference room and a replica of Army barracks. The improvements more than doubled the museum’s square footage to 7,200. Visitors can see displays from World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War and Cuban Missile Crisis.

Interest has been strong in the museum since it was dedicated on Veterans Day 1992 and located on the grounds of the former Bakalar Air Force Base, next to Columbus Municipal Airport.

Hundreds of visitors came to the April 5, 2014, open house when the renovations were unveiled to the public. A record 1,000 visitors came to the museum Aug. 18 during the airport’s Aviation Day festivities, which looks to become an annual event. Interestingly, 40 percent of the museum’s visitors are international.

The volunteers who have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of time and labor to help the museum grow are to be commended. Their efforts have given people another good reason to visit Columbus.