By Rob Finfrock
CJP Executive Director Lt. Col. Jon “Huggy” Huggins has spent the past 10 months fulfilling his goal of reaching out to CJP Members across the country. One of the most effective means of doing so has been through a series of dinner gatherings where small groups of CJP Members could meet and mingle in a more intimate setting than in larger venues such as CJP’s Annual Convention.
“From the beginning, the dinners have been a key part of my plan to extend our association’s outreach to our membership,” Huggy explained. “I planned to do somewhere between six to eight gatherings a year, with around 10-20 Members at each, where we could sit, relax, and talk about flying. Think of the ‘Captain’s table’ onboard a ship, for example.”
Each dinner begins with brief introductions from attendees, “usually by describing their ‘coolest aviation experience’ such as their first solo, or their first time flying as PIC in their Citation,” Huggy added. “I then advise guests about the latest news from CJP, and ask for their feedback, and the conversations evolve from there.”
The first dinner took place in February, in conjunction with a training event sponsored by Eagle Creek Aviation and the Naples Jet Center in Naples, FL. Although a successful gathering overall, that dinner provided Huggy with his first lesson about how he could improve subsequent events.
“I quickly realized that I’d missed the mark by only inviting CJP Members to attend,” he admitted. “That required an immediate course correction to make clear that non-flying spouses and companions were also welcome. Our dinners since then have been that much nicer in having the companions come out and join us.”
A fortunate coincidence helped the next CJP dinner in Newburgh, NY come together. “I was originally looking around Boston, until someone mentioned that the Citation Service Center at nearby Stewart International Airport (SWF) had an Open House scheduled at the same time,” Huggy explained. “Why let an event like that go to waste?”
That dinner took place a short distance from SWF at Brotherhood Wineries, which bills itself as the oldest winery in America. Jet Quest president and CEO Robin Eissler sponsored the dinner. “We had about 15 people there, and had the opportunity to chat with folks from the service center as well as personnel from Textron Aviation,” Huggy continued. “It was a fantastic icebreaker, and a chance to forge some new friendships.”
The next dinner took place in Washington, DC following the American Fighter Aces Congressional Gold Medal Award Ceremony on May 20. “Several CJP Members flew these honored guests to the event in their Citations,” Huggy noted. “It was an amazing experience to behold, and we were also honored to have Congressman Sam Graves (R-MO-6) stop by for a brief visit.”
On June 11, Horacio & Amy Valeiras hosted a spectacular CJP dinner in La Jolla, CA that attracted members from throughout southern California. The next dinner is scheduled to take place Thursday, August 6 in Milwaukee, WI, following the Customer Event at the Citation Service Center at MKE.
Each dinner has featured wines from CJP Platinum-Level sponsor Wagner Family of Wine. Huggy added that he’s always looking for location suggestions, and invites CJP Members interested in sponsoring future dinners to contact him.
“These events have really ‘popped,” he concluded. “CJP always provides a first-class experience for our Members, and I look forward to hosting many more dinners going forward.”