26 April 2024

HARS as an event space makes plain good sense

| Jen White
Join the conversation
Tables decorated to event.

The Australian Aviation Hall of Fame at HARS Museum set up for the 2023 induction dinner. Photo: AAHOF.

The Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) is known for many great things but an event venue is probably not the first one that springs to mind.

The home of Australia’s largest collection of vintage aircraft has opened its hangar doors at Shellharbour Airport to events, from weddings to business conferences and sit-down functions which can cater for up to 900 people.

Events and dinners can be held in Hanger 1, the main aircraft and work area, surrounded by historic aircraft, or in the newly renovated Hanger 2, home to Australia’s Aviation Hall of Fame (AHOF).

HARS Events Manager and volunteer Sherryl Sherson said the event business was a long time in the making, with the original idea born in 2016.

An event was held at HARS on the eve of Wings Over Illawarra (now known as Airshows Downunder Australia) which Sherryl attended as a volunteer.

READ ALSO HARS about more than just restoring historic aircraft

“I thought we could do better but it wasn’t until the following year that I went to Bob De La Hunty, our president, and said, ‘Look Bob, I think I can do better here for you with events,’” Sherryl said.

“Bob said to me: ‘Sherryl, we’re aviators, not event people.’ But we had lots of great space and I was sure we could make it work – that was the first conversation.”

But back then, Hanger 2, on the mezzanine level, was used to store aircraft parts – “rows and rows and rows of shelving” – and rolls of unwanted Qantas carpet.

To get to the conference room at the rear, guests and volunteers carrying cups and saucers and plates of food had to walk up three flights of stairs.

“We did it and it was successful but it was too hard work,” Sherryl said.

Since then the level has undergone a complete transformation and a lift is now installed. Volunteers remain the backbone of the organisation, their skills and knowledge extending beyond HARS’ traditional base of pilots, aviators and engineers.

Planes in a hangar at HARS.

The main hangar at HARS is usually a busy workshop, but is transformed for events. Photo: HARS.

Sherryl and her volunteers have put together an impressive package for weddings, product launches and exhibitions, conferences, celebratory dinners and for the first time, school formals.

“We had quite a few big dinners, including AHOF dinners which have been around the 230 mark, a couple of wedding ceremonies, lots of smaller, intimate dinners of 40-45 people, and last year we had an event for 600 people for the 100th celebrations of the Albion Park Oak Flats Rugby League Club,” Sherryl said.

“Qantas held two functions here for their 100th birthday celebrations, a barbecue in the 747 compound and then a formal dinner.”

Most of the catering now is done by Wollongong’s Culinarius but for a while Sherryl and volunteers were cooking meals.

“Apart from the fact that I’ve always loved to cook, I just thought we couldn’t afford some of the prices that we were getting in [for catering] so we had to try and find a happy medium somewhere.

“So the volunteers and I got together and organised it and served the meals and I loved it. We made a little bit of money for HARS, not much, and the client was happy at the end of the day.”

A table setting in front of planes.

An example of an elegant dining table set up in front of historic aircraft at HARS. Photo: Jen White.

As functions increased, the work became too much for volunteers and Sherryl turned to Culinarius and Monika Armstrong, her friend of more than 30 years.

“It really has taken a long time for us to arrive in a situation that not only do I feel very, very proud to be involved with, but so too all of the volunteers who come in here and work so hard each week,” Sherryl said.

READ ALSO Dairy plains to airplanes: A trip back in time at Albion Park Rail

“It’s only when people come and have a look at how we’ve set up for a function that they say gosh, I didn’t know this existed.

“We are creating a space that now is not just there to restore the old aircraft. It’s not just good for the organisation, it’s great for the community and the city.”

For more details about event packages at HARS, email Sherryl at [email protected].

HARS Aviation Museum, at Shellharbour Airport, is open every day except Christmas Day from 9:30 am – 3:30 pm. Admission price ($70 family, $30 adults, $15 children and $25 concession) includes a guided tour of about 90 minutes.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Daily Digest

Want the best Illawarra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Illawarra stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.