A Tribute to the Faithful
We almost missed our exit. Too engrossed in our discussion and wondering what was happening in the vicinity. The traffic had gradually started to slow and rows of cars moving slowly lined the inner road as we sped north on Highway 41. Was something happening at Fond du Lac we wondered.
“A lot of RV’s here”. Wait! I think we are just going past Camp Schoeller. The last few times we had been coming on Friday and had never seen so many cars or so much crowd. We wondered how long it was going to take us to get inside the campsite and whether they was any space left. It was only later we came to know that the arrivals far exceeded the expectations and about 30% more crowds had shown up beyond the anticipated figures.Year after year people come back to forget the rest of the world and enjoy and share in one week of unfettered joy and fun of aviation.
There was Greg whom we have met unfailingly each year. Always stopping by to check on us and chat with us about the latest news. Always ready to help us setup our campsite and this year even to move it physically to a different location! Greg has been coming for countless years with his dad and sons. Three generations of aviation enthusiasts all there well ahead of the commencement of Airventure, volunteering and providing support to make Airventure an enduring success. Each year, we received the same response from Greg “No I don’t have my license yet. No time to work on it”. Yet he returns each year flanked by his two sons and dad (and this time by his brother as well) setting up camp and volunteering.
Then there was Bob whom we talked with on the flight line manning the White Knight Two space launch vehicle. An airline pilot who has been coming to Airventure for the past 40 years (from since he was two!)
Seeing the little boys and girls walking along the path with their parents from the flight line back to the campsite, we wondered if years from now, they would proudly talk about their time here – about coming here since they were two? This was the 6th time for me while my friend has been there for 9 times. We have been fortunate enough to camp at our usual location and touch base with the friends we have made over the years. Reading Airventure Today, the daily newspaper, it is amazing to see the long list of people and the number of years they have been coming. I could see figures such as 47, 36, 42! What an incredible set of people to work in unison and precision to make this event such an exultant success year after year. Kudos to them and to all who make this happen! It is no common feat to orchestrate the movement of an Airbus A380, a WhiteNightTwo Space Launch Vehicle, a C5, a C130 and all the other aircraft on display. Kudos to the ATC as well for managing the busiest airport in the world to such precision.
We also marked the rapid changes in the neighborhood surrounding Oshkosh airport. A town that comes alive for one week in the year. I remember my first time to Oshkosh in ’02 when there were hardly any stores in the neighborhood. A truck stop had serviced the place. Now there was a Best Buy, a Staples, a Target, a Prime Outlet center, and scores of stores and shops. I had heard that this one week brought in 250% revenue for this place. Likely this was sufficient to sustain the city for the rest of the year.
There were changes at Airventure as well. The most unfortunate being the removal of the banner that graced the entrance each year. My friend and I had our own tradition of taking a picture each year in front of this banner in fondness and remembrance. Search as we might and ask as we might we were unable to determine the reason, but it looks like the banner is gone for good. On the positive side, Oshkosh has flushable toilets now! What a relief. To me this was a blessing and the best change EAA has incorporated this year in addition to the water stand for the dehydrated. The rest of it all is still true…
And you can take it from me it is the RIGHT CROWD!