the General Information Services building from left: Grayling
Peterson, kneeling, vice chairman, of Sandstone, Minnesota; Jim
Camp, co-chairman, of Madison, Wisconsin; Bill Schneider,
chairman, of Oshkosh; Gary Sternberg, co-chairman, of Oshkosh;
and Lawrence Gunderson, co-chairman, of Ishpeming, Michigan. Ray
Fiset, Quebec City, Canada, who started the information booth
more than 50 years ago, sits in front.
One woman from Italy lost her
international cell phone. Another woman from Australia lost her camera's
memory card, filled with her family's entire U.S. vacation. Both were
turned in at AirVenture's General Information Services, which includes
lost and found.
"We had the phone back to its owner
in two hours," says co-chairman Gary Sternberg of Oshkosh.
"She broke down in tears when we told her we had it." Chairman
Bill Schneider, also of Oshkosh, adds, "People think their items
will be gone forever, but this is Oshkosh." And that says it all.
Oshkosh isn't just known as the largest gathering of aviation
enthusiasts, but it is also known for its clean grounds and friendly and
The General Information Services building
is one of the busiest buildings on the EAA AirVenture grounds, receiving
500-1,000 phone calls a day plus hundreds of visitors stopping by. But
the group that mans it has years of experience and can answer just about
any question visitors come up with. With one exception.
"People want to know where they can
see the stars right now," says Ray Fiset of Quebec City, Canada,
who has only missed three of the 56 EAA conventions. He didn't know
about EAA until the third event, and last year he had open-heart
surgery. Fiset has been wheelchair-bound for more than 40 years, after
lunging to prevent a man from walking into a spinning propeller.
Fiset has gotten a variety of questions
throughout the years, some downright amusing. "Once, someone asked
me where the porta-potties were when he was leaning against one,"
But otherwise, there are no common
questions. "Everybody is looking for something - a display, a
vendor, a plane. This place is so huge and spread out, they've learned
to ask first instead of walking all over the place."
Fiset started the booth more than 50
years ago when the convention was held at Rockford, Illinois, with a
card table and a beach umbrella. He says he started it out of need.
"I saw people wandering about wondering about this or that,"
he says. Back in those early days of the fly-in convention, if you saw a
need, you pitched in and helped.
Today General Information Services is
located between the International Visitors Tent and the old FAA control
tower. Fiset said the building is the oldest on the grounds, and was the
original registration building. While the building has never changed its
location, it has changed its direction. "It used to face east/west,
but now it faces north-south," he says.
Schneider says the Communication Center
added another phone line this year to their building, allowing for
separate lines for information and lost and found. All the calls that
come in about the fly-in convention during the week come in to their
But the group doesn't just answer
questions. As people walk throughout the vast grounds, they also drop
and lose items. "The most common thing we get (turned in) these
days is cell phones," says Schneider. But in the past people have
turned in passports, cash, a glass eye and a backpack porta-potty used
for toddlers who are potty training, says Sternberg.
They also end up with a lot of lost
adults and children.
"We used to keep candy to keep the
kids happy while they waited for their parents," says Fiset.
"But those little devils got wise and they got lost on
These days they keep coloring books to
keep the little ones happy until their parents are found.
Although the 2008 event is over, the
group is already looking forward to next year. "It just went by too
fast," Schneider says. "It seems like we were just getting
here and setting up and it's over."
Fiset agreed. "Oshkosh is like a big
And here's to next year's reunion.