EAA AirVenture Oshkosh - The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration
 

Bookmark and Share    
 
   
   

[ NEWS ]

  Latest News
  Awards / Group Photos
  Media Room
   
EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS Feed Early Birds Stake Their Claims in Camp Scholler
Media Streaming Co-Chair and tram volunteer Todd Ritzman of Brookfield, Wisconsin.
Media Streaming Co-Chair and tram volunteer Todd Ritzman of Brookfield, Wisconsin.
(l to r) Flightline safety volunteers Lane Esswein, Sean McMillan, and Kevin Smerling.
(l to r) Flightline safety volunteers Lane Esswein, Sean McMillan, and Kevin Smerling.
Sarah Kaminski, George Meade, and Jim Brown of VAA Chapter 11.
Sarah Kaminski, George Meade, and Jim Brown of VAA Chapter 11.
Wisconsin Air Guard member Keith Atkins pictured with the Syracuse, New York ANG’s 1977 tug.
Wisconsin Air Guard member Keith Atkins pictured with the Syracuse, New York ANG's 1977 tug.
(l to r) EAA Chapter 439 volunteers “Bama” Bob Boykin, “Honda” Bob Martin, Cynthia Martin, and Jane Boykin.
(l to r) EAA Chapter 439 volunteers "Bama" Bob Boykin, "Honda" Bob Martin, Cynthia Martin, and Jane Boykin.

It's official: Camp Scholler is open for business! Several campers claimed their sites on the traditional opening day that occurs one month before AirVenture opening day. This morning's early birds hail from across the country, and most will be volunteering - some for the first time, others for the 30th or more - in the hectic run-up to the World's Greatest Aviation Celebration July 23-29.

Todd Ritzman, EAA 268631, of Brookfield, Wisconsin parked his camper in the same spot that it has been for the last 20 years: Paul's Woods.

"We've been here for many, many years," Ritzman said. "It's a great spot. All three spots we have here will be filled with family."

Ritzman is the media streaming co-chair for EAA Chapter 11, and his family has volunteered with the AirVenture Tram Team for more than a quarter century. Although he was one of the first people to set up in Camp Scholler Friday, Ritzman will stay onsite during the weekends and sometimes during the week to help build a new office at the Theater in the Woods.

His work during AirVenture will keep him pretty busy as well, maintaining five live video feeds from the shows, and hosting EAA radio data. Excited for July, Ritzman plans on enjoying this year's event just as much as the last.

"It really is like a big family here," Ritzman said. "It's what keeps you coming back."

Three flightline safety volunteers also staked out their group's Paul's Woods campsite last night, despite being visited by a few nosey raccoons. Lane Esswein, EAA 97963, of Farmington, Minnesota; Kevin Smerling, EAA 104519, of Oshkosh; and Sean McMillan, EAA 781078, of Milton, Wisconsin, are all pilots and are eager for AirVenture to start.

"If you want the good spots, you got to get here early," Smerling said. "We're kind of crazy over here."

Their group has camped in the same spot since 1977, with people coming in from all over the country, as well as other parts of the world. They all agree there isn't anything else quite like it.

"We started with two volunteers in '77, and it's really grown since then," said Lane Esswein, "There are people from all over - New Hampshire, Las Vegas, Kentucky. We even have a Canadian and someone from Australia."

"You meet a lot of interesting, fun, and hardworking people."

He recalled the story of a Japanese man who lost his wallet "full of green" that was later returned to the Lost and Found, and nothing was missing.

"It's one of those things that just doesn't happen many other places," Esswein said.

On the other side of Paul's Woods we met U.S. Army veteran George Meade, EAA Lifetime 26579, of Glendale, Wisconsin, who tells us he was at the very first convention 60 years ago. Meade was helping fellow VAA Chapter 11 member Jim Brown and Brown's daughter, Sarah Kaminski, mark off their campsite for a camper set to arrive later in the day.

Meade, who served as chapter president for 22 years, used to stay in a trailer in Audrey's Park, and prior to that, he remembers flying in and camping with his homebuilt EAA Biplane. Meade now volunteers in the Weeks Hangar doing aircraft maintenance when he can.

Having flown his Piper Cherokee into AirVenture three times, Brown is looking forward to watching the planes fly into AirVenture.

"It's always breathtaking," Brown said. "It really is a 'rite of passage' for pilots."

Brown and his family have been camping at AirVenture for 30 years, and for the last dozen or so have volunteered with a VAA's "Toney's Red Carpet Express," a courtesy van named after a longtime volunteer who passed away several years ago.

"People fly in with all these suitcases and need a good way to get around," Brown said. "It's been a great success and helps many people."

This will be Kaminski's 28th year camping at AirVenture, and her 2-year-old son Charlie's third year. "I was here pregnant with Charlie," she quipped, adding that her toddler may get his first airplane ride this year.

The AirVenture excitement only continues a stone's throw from Paul's Woods. Wisconsin Air National Guard volunteer Keith Atkins, arrived late Friday morning to tape off several spots for his friends and their families, sharing the same "gotta get here early" sentiments as the other campers setting up today.

Atkins also dropped off a 1977 tug from the Syracuse ANG base in New York that will be used positioning aircraft on Phillips 66 Plaza during AirVenture. Atkins and his fellow Guard volunteers plan on tugging about 14-15 hours each day, but they're also looking forward to bonding with fellow campers around their fire pit.

Just across the grass from the ANG campsites, a lively group of EAA Chapter 439 volunteers from Alabama and Ohio relaxed under the shade of their trailer's awning. This group has been eager and prepared to camp for days, checking in early this morning. Although located in Iron Mountain, Michigan, Chapter 439 claims members from many states and placed around the world.

"Honda" Bob and Cynthia Martin, who hail from Ohio, remember camping in Paul's Wood for 29 years before they moved across the street when their volunteer group outgrew it. "Bama" Bob and Jane Boykin have been in the same spot for more than 10 years and look forward to many more.

"We have a good time up here," Honda said. "Just being here is great."

Chapter 439 has numerous "Bobs" so each has a nickname to help keep things straight - including their campsite puppet, "Bob Boykin Jr."

AirVenture has been a "family deal" to the chapter, and they volunteer as much as possible, doing anything from positioning flags, sweeping sidewalks and buildings, delivering newspapers, and picking up trash. Their claim to fame: wiring down port-a-potties.

All those we spoke with agreed about the why they're here and what keeps 'em coming back: the people.

"We've met so many great people here from all over," Jane Boykin said. "And it's amazing what this place can do for kids who volunteer and develop a real can-do attitude. It's such a good organization."

Learn more about AirVenture camping | Download 2012 Camping Guide | View Map of Camp Scholler

---------------------------

FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
Copyright © 2014 EAA, Inc.
All content, logos, pictures, and videos are the property of the EAA, Inc.
EAA Aviation Center, 3000 Poberezny Road, Oshkosh, WI 54902
If you have any comments or questions contact webmaster@eaa.org.
Disclaimer/Privacy Policy