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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedCampers keep spirits up despite wet conditions
By Barbara A. Schmitz

Bicyclists pedal around the standing water on the roads by Camp Scholler. More than 12 inches of rain has fallen in Oshkosh in July, setting a new record for the month. Campers are taking all the rain in stride, joking about their “waterfront property.” Photo by Jim Koepnick

Forget about Camp Scholler. At EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2010, it will be remembered as Camp Mud.

Oshkosh set a new July record for rain at 10.03 inches on July 22, according to Oshkosh Northwestern weather observations. But another 2 inches fell Thursday—and it again poured early Saturday morning.

This excess of precipitation has left the grounds in Camp Scholler beyond saturated, with standing water resembling small lakes and a culvert becoming a fast-flowing stream.

But campers took the wet conditions in stride on Saturday morning.

“Welcome to Swampland,” said Penny Kelly, of Coldwater, Michigan, who was camping with her husband, Mike. While their tent wasn’t under water, nearly everything around it was. As she stood in the middle of their campsite, about 5 inches of water covered her rubber boots.

“It’s been this way since Thursday,” she said.

Added Mike, “But it started going down this morning.”

“But it still stinks,” she quipped.

“Yeah, but at least there are no alligators or snakes.”

Still, their belongings inside the tent were dry, and with a raised air mattress, they were keeping comfortable. Plus, they were among the lucky ones.

They managed to buy the last pair of rubber boots from Wal-Mart the day before, they said.

Harold Moritz and Sheila Gleason, of East Haddam, Connecticut, had their air mattress drying out on top of their car, while puddles collected on the floor of their tent.

“If we set up there, it could have been worse,” said Moritz, EAA 774236, pointing to standing water not far away. Nearby, a truck was still stuck in the mud.

“There were six or eight guys pushing in the back, but they couldn’t move it an inch,” Gleason said.

Gary Henry, of Charlottesville, Virginia, was camping with his sons, John and Matt, and Nikki Cranford.

“We put our tent up early Thursday in the rain, got in it, and battled the best we could,” said Henry, EAA 478541. “We were able to mop it out and get it dry before Friday night, but now we’re wet again.”

They also moved one of their tents to higher ground. “A few inches makes a huge difference,” Henry said.

That’s because their camping site suddenly became waterfront property, with a nearby culvert transforming into a stream that breached its banks at one point.

Still, after 15 years of camping at Camp Scholler, the family was prepared. You could barely see their tent under the tarps, and they had already purchased “slop shoes” for the week, John said. Cranford even wore the latest fashion statement on the Camp Scholler grounds—knee-high rubber boots.

A couple of roads over, Gerry and Jeannie Leverentz, of Lafayette, Colorado, were doing better than most campers. They had parked their motor home in a high spot and were reasonably dry and comfortable. “But over there,” he said pointing to the south, “was a lake about 2-feet deep. We were thinking we should go and buy a fishing license.”

Communications Director Dick Knapinski said EAA made site modifications because of the excessive rain to make sure visitors, equipment, and the grounds stay safe.

“No. 1, we’re keeping the big rigs off,” he said. “We’re still registering campers and then determining where to place them depending on their type of unit.”

Hundreds of the biggest motor homes and fifth-wheels are now temporarily parked off-site on hard surfaces, such as the Aviation Plaza lot just northwest of the airport, or the former Russ Darrow Kia lot across Highway 41.

Other lighter units are being placed temporarily in areas that remain dry, such as the grass parking lots that won’t be needed until Monday’s start of the convention, he said.

“People have been in remarkably good spirits and very understanding of the weather,” Knapinski said.

“We just want people to know that they might not be able to park in the same spot they’ve always been in.”

In addition, EAA has pumps working, trying to dry out the wettest areas. “If we can get rid of the standing water, then the ground has a chance to dry.”

Every year there are challenges to putting on an event of this magnitude, Knapinski said. “This year the challenge is the weather,” he said.

“But despite the challenges, there are a lot of good stories of cooperation and people going the extra mile to help.”

Leverentz agreed. “You help each other,” he said. “That is what EAA is all about.”

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