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Waffle fundraiser aims to give lift to Castle museum

Close to 1,000 strawberry waffles topped with whipped cream will be served Sunday morning by "celebrity chefs" at the Castle Air Museum's semi-annual fund-raising brunch.

Joe Pruzzo, the museum's executive director, hopes the event from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. raises $10,000 for repairs and enhanced operations at the museum, which houses 49 vintage military airplanes.

"It's a good event to put the community in touch with the museum," Pruzzo said. "It's a great opportunity to have a delicious breakfast served by celebrities and experience aviation first-hand."

This is the 12th year the waffle breakfast has been served at the Castle Air Museum's cafe and banquet room at 5050 Santa Fe Drive, Atwater. Tickets are $10 for adults and $4 for children age 6 and under. Brunch tickets include free admission to the museum grounds for the day.

Caroline Venable, executive board secretary and event chairwoman, said 800 people attended last year's brunch. She is hoping record gasoline prices don't keep people away this time.

Celebrity chefs include Judge Hugh Flanagan, Sheriff Mark Pazin, County Schools Superintendent Lee Andersen, District Attorney Larry Morse II, County Supervisor Mike Nelson, Assemblywoman Kathleen Galgiani, Merced Mayor Ellie Wooten, Sun-Star Editor Joe Kieta and radio personalities Dave Luna and Dennis Daily.

The SA-16 Albatross search-and-rescue amphibious aircraft and the F-4 Phantom Thunderbird jet are Sunday's featured airplanes and their cockpits will be open for inspection, Venable said.

Open since 1981, the Castle Air Museum has one of the largest collection of mililtary aircraft on the West Coast, Pruzzo said. A fund-raising omelet brunch is held each October.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2485 or