EAA AirVenture Oshkosh - The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration

 for Wed, July 30, 2008

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EAA AirVenture Today is published by the Experimental Aircraft Association for EAA AirVenture from July 27 - August 3. It is distributed free on the convention grounds as well as other locations in Oshkosh and surrounding communities. Stories and photos are copyrighted 2008 by EAA AirVenture Today and EAA. Reproduction by any means is prohibited without written consent.


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The official daily newspaper of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh

Volume 9, Number 4 July 30, 2008     

Volunteer spirit ... Alive and well at AirVenture 2008
By Rose Dorcey
(l-r) Margy Natalie, Cheryl King, and Natacha Schwarz provide Vintage aircraft volunteer services at AirVenture 2008. Cheryl said that they may not see each other throughout the year, but at AirVenture, they pick up right where they left off. Photo by Rose Dorcey
Carla Larsh assists Lee Crevier in the Ultralight Barn. Larsh said that at AirVenture 2007, about 50 volunteers contributed 4,350 hours in about a week. Photo by Rose Dorcey
Jim Casper volunteers because he feels it’s an obligation to give back to something that provides meaning. "When I attend other events where I’m not volunteering, I feel strange, like I need someone to give me an assignment. Photo by Rose Dorcey
Margy Natalie provides bell ringer services as part of her volunteer efforts at the Vintage Operations building. Photo by Rose Dorcey

They come from all walks of life, all areas of the country, and are scattered all over the AirVenture grounds. Their duties are as varied as the people who perform them, but one thing is certain, EAA AirVenture Oshkosh would not have earned the title The World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration without them. We’re talking about the volunteers, of course, who do it because there isn’t anywhere else they would rather be.

"I volunteer because I love Oshkosh," said Margy Natalie of Herndon, Virginia, a 14-year volunteer in Vintage Operations. "Volunteering is a way to make it better for everyone else here. When you become a volunteer, you become part of a community."

The community Natalie spoke of helps to explain why volunteers by the thousands give their time and talent to the event. Volunteers bubble with enthusiasm about the relationships they create through volunteering, and how meaningful they are. The work they do is meaningful, too. "Once you’ve been here a few years, you feel more purpose than just watching the show," Natalie said.

Steve Moyer, Vintage Aircraft Volunteer Center chairman, who said he works with the "best volunteers in the world," gets emotional when he talks about the benevolent people he "works under." Volunteers, he said, perform professionally together and work things out to get a job done. "I get gushy about them. I could almost cry when I think about their efforts—their spirit," he said.

Moyer knows of the extensive hours that AirVenture volunteers put in, and how vital their work is. He speaks with admiration of those who have volunteered for as many as 30 years. "These volunteers are the foundation of AirVenture, and I know EAA knows that."

Volunteers contribute from 40 to 60 hours per week during AirVenture, and some arrive several weeks in advance, preparing EAA grounds and equipment. Others volunteer for a day or two, and some stay afterward to button things down. They meet in different areas of the country throughout the year for planning. Many receive extensive training, such as those in Flightline Operations.

Jim Casper, vice chair of EAA Flightline Operations – Oshkosh (a volunteer position), said about 200 volunteers, as many as 60 on any given day, park general aviation aircraft, "directing airplanes just like traffic cops." Flightline Operations volunteers feel the community Natalie spoke of, too. "We become very close, and our appreciation party is just like a family get-together," Casper said.

He should know. "I’ve been volunteering since ’75; this is my 33rd convention as a volunteer," he said. "I have gotten so much out of EAA compared to what I give, and this is my way to give back. I feel it’s almost an obligation, and I’ve discovered that it’s a lot more interesting volunteering than just attending."

It seems no matter where you go on the AirVenture grounds the volunteers are among the most passionate people you’ll find here. They love what they do, the people they work with, and they look forward to seeing each other every year. None seem to feel as if they’re missing anything; in fact, volunteering is exactly what makes their AirVenture experience memorable. Cheryl King, an eight-year volunteer, says that she hasn’t attended any forums for two years because, "this is where I want to be, what I want to do." Meeting people through her volunteer efforts, and sharing hugs and laughs, is as important as the aviation safety she promotes through her efforts in Vintage Operations. "We’re from all walks of life, lawyers, computer programmers, doctors—we have one of the country’s top cardiologists—and here, we’re all the same," Cheryl said. "We’re all airplane people."

Down on the south end of the field are the ultralight volunteers, who Carla Larsh describes as close-knit and supportive. Larsh has served for 19 years as a volunteer, most currently as chair of the EAA Ultralight & Light-Sport Aircraft Council. An ultralight pilot herself, Larsh said it’s the people the volunteers come back for. "When my husband died, the outpouring of support from the ultralight community was just remarkable; I heard from people for months after he passed away. It’s that kind of caring, friendships, bonds that are built."

Volunteers are hardworking men and women who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. They are modest about being the heart and soul of AirVenture and EAA. Many are pilots, and many are not. Many appreciate the history of the aircraft, like the volunteers at Warbirds, who are thrilled to be in the presence of the World War II aircraft their parents and grandparents flew. Some are veterans themselves, who share firsthand experiences with visitors who appreciate their stories.

For some, volunteering is a family tradition. It’s not uncommon to see second-generation volunteers—the sons and daughters of moms and dads who have been volunteering for decades. Still, a need for volunteers exists in nearly all areas, and it’s likely you’ll be welcomed in with open arms. Like the thousands of volunteers who already know, who live in tents and campers for a week, cooking and eating and working together so that it seems as if EAA AirVenture is a seamless event, the personal rewards make it worthwhile.

"The greatest gift in life is to give a gift of love to other people," Moyer said. "The volunteers’ gift to each other is their work through their love of aviation."

See volunteer list (PDF)

FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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