Peggy McDowell says she is
known throughout the convention grounds as the "diaper lady"
and is recognized by the flower hat on her head.
Peggy McDowell says she has the
"cushiest" volunteer job at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh complete with air
conditioning and ice water. But that wasn't what she was looking for in 1988
when she came to the fly-in convention with her one-month-old son.
She just wanted a quiet, cool place to care for
her baby. She found the Mother/Baby Nursing Hangar and started volunteering
there the following year.
Along came a daughter in 1991 and Peggy
continued helping. Now, with her children 20 and 17, Baby Services has become a
family project. Peggy and her husband, Bill, cave co-chaired since the early
"We aren't pilots," says McDowell, who
lives in Tomahawk, Wisconsin. "We're just enthusiasts who do this because
we love hanging around airplane people."
Baby services started more than 20 years ago as
a subgroup of emergency services, McDowell says. In the beginning, their one
building was located by the control tower. Now they have multiple locations and
larger diaper-changing stations.
"And they're never located by water,"
McDowell says of the changing stations. "So we have to haul buckets and
rags to clean them out. It's my husband's and son's job to do the dirty
One year there was a storm and the buildings
were covered in mud, she recalls. So she went to maintenance and asked to
borrow a pressure washer; they didn't have one, but told her to check with the
"I went over with doughnuts, and asked if
they needed to do a training run," McDowell says. "I told them what
the deal was and asked if they could help."
They did. "They practically blew the paint
off," McDowell says, laughing.
Another year they opened one of the buildings to
find the floor covered - 2 or 3 inches thick - with dead bees. "The bees
had gotten in the ceiling, and somebody had sprayed and just shut the
door," McDowell says. "That's why we always go early to see if there
are any little surprises. We actually shoveled the bees out."
McDowell says they normally arrive about a week
early to clean out the buildings and get everything ready. Then, during the
convention, they service the buildings, making sure they are well stocked,
sanitizing the toys and wiping down the changing tables between customers.
While they don't provide babysitting services,
they have been known to occasionally hold a baby for a mom in need of a
"pit stop," McDowell says.
"But a lot of what we do is help people
find the kind of things they need that they didn't think they would need,"
McDowell says her kids have grown up at Oshkosh,
and look forward to it every year. "I get volunteer hours out of them, but
they, too, come for the people."
Just like their mom.
"For me, AirVenture is all about being with
some of the most wonderful people anywhere," McDowell says. "The
planes are just pretty things to have around while we have fun."