Shortly after 6 p.m. today, a crowd of 2,700 people holding the hottest ticket in town will follow vocalist Michael Civisca, Pied-Piper style, into the heart of the new Buffalo airport singing "Come Fly With Me."
The group -- brushing past the ceremonial parting curtain into the spacious concession area for drinks and hors d'oeuvres -- will kick off four days of events intended to capitalize on the investment being made by the NFTA in the new Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
Actual operations begin Monday, when a USAirways 737 jet to Philadelphia and an American Eagle turboprop to New York JFK are scheduled to leave at 6:15 a.m. It'll be up to air traffic controllers to decide which aircraft lifts off the runway first.
The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority has chosen a guest list for the cocktail reception that emphasizes its desire to make the airport a regional draw. Invitations have gone to government and business leaders locally and as far away as Hamilton, Ont., Rochester and the Southern Tier.
"I want to create a sense of pride and excitement in the airport and the region, and how this will change the way we do business," said NFTA Commissioner Mary Martino, chairwoman of the grand opening events.
What guests and, beginning Friday, the public will find is a radical change from the current hodgepodge facility. From the soaring ticket lobby through the concession concourse and its unique "surfboard" ceiling to the quarter-mile long gate concourse, it's a brighter and much more dynamic terminal, officials said.
"It's an opportunity to introduce the airport to Western New York," Ms. Martino said. "We have a tremendous amount of pride in this project. In fact, I was just talking to a worker who was just exuding pride of ownership. He was beaming."
Ms. Martino said interest in the opening evening cocktail party, which is being sponsored by Delaware North Cos., the airport concessionaire, has been intense. The NFTA had to cut off the number of tickets available to keep the size of the event at a manageable level.
"I've got a tremendous number of calls," she said.
The reception guests, who will be the first to use the new airport parking garage, are being asked to arrive early to avoid delays.
The airport festivities continue Friday with a ribbon cutting ceremony set for noon. Local, state and national elected leaders and government officials have been invited, and Bishop Henry Mansell of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo is scheduled to bless the new facility.
Then it's the public's turn to see the $55 million terminal. Community Day open house will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Friday. Entertainment includes the Cheektowaga Community Chorus and the Bourbon Street Brass.
The terminal closes Saturday to allow the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra to hold its annual black-tie gala but reopens to the public again Sunday for a full day of open house activities.
From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., entertainment includes Jay Maran and his Orchestra, Elmer Shamber and Sentimental Journey, ethnic dance groups, the Chautauqua County Chorale, Macy Favor and the Jay Mann Trio. Strolling magicians also are scheduled.
Those attending the open houses are asked to obtain free tickets for the event at all Tops Market and Fantastix ticket outlets. Those passes are available until Saturday.