Talk to Carol Maker, an owner of storied Columbus barbecuer JP’s Barbecue, around this time of year and she may introduce herself as cupid.
It’s no accident. Maker’s mission this Valentine’s Day, as it has been the past 17 years, is to invite guests — a pair at a time — into JP’s dining showplace at Bolton Field in southwest Columbus and put behinds in the seats of a Cessna 172 for a romantic evening flight around the capital city.
The barbecue restaurant and catering business’ annual Valentine’s Party and Romantic Airplane Ride serves as an annual showcase of all things JP’s, she said.
“It’s an opportunity to experience the dining facility, the level of our staff and the quality of the food,” said Maker.
The buffet-style dinner will consist of multiple courses, including appetizers, entrees that highlight JP’s “just perfect” barbecue style, a complete selection of side dishes, decadent desserts and cookies and other sweet treats.
Cocktail hour at the cash bar starts at 5 p.m. Couples eventually are directed to their seats at tables set for eight or fewer guests.
From the candlelit, floral centerpieces to the crisp table linens, red and white are the dominant colors of the evening. Party favors adorned with red hearts are plentiful. Of particular interest are the small heart-speckled paper planes at each place setting.
Games for the party include a candy necklace-eating contest and Tie the Knot.
“It’s amazing what adults will do,” Maker said, recalling several years’ worth of previous parties.
She said she decided a long time ago that if she was going to have to work on Valentine’s Day, “I’m doing something fun.”
Music and dancing will round out the evening on terra firma. A photographer also has been hired so that couples may request a photo of themselves as a memento.
Maker said plenty of attendees settle for the meal, party and dancing for a flat price of $89.50 per couple.
For those who want to earn a pair of cupid’s wings, the dinner party and flight cost $179-plus tax, per couple.
Maker expects the evening to be a sellout, just as it has been in past years.
All flights are weather permitting and any couples affected by cancelled flights are provided with vouchers to reschedule a flight.
In addition to Bolton Field, the pilot on the Valentine’s Day flights is expected to communicate with flight towers at The Ohio State University Airport, long known as Don Scott Field; John Glenn Columbus International Airport and Rickenbacker International Airport.
“It really is a lovely event,” Maker said.
Guests are expected to dress casually chic and to add a dash of red to their attire.