|Kayla Kulhanek, 8, designing the airwork on her own airplane glider in KidVenture area 51 1/2. (photo by Phil Weston)
|Reed Cutrer, 3, in the pedal plane. (photo by Phil Weston)
|Ava Bushby, 3, taking the Kiddie Hawk mechanical airplane ride for a test drive. (photo by Phil Weston)
By Sienna Kossman
While adults wander the rows of exhibitors and participate in unique workshops and forums, kids are getting a taste of aviation in a slightly different way.
KidVenture gives children of all ages a way to release energy, express their creativity, and interact with others through the common denominator among AirVenture visitors - airplanes.
Despite potential rain clouds looming Friday morning, KidVenture's atmosphere remained upbeat and lively, like its young visitors.
In the Learn to Hover area, where kids test out their helicopter skills with a remote-controlled model, brothers Evan and Eric Malmgren from Spring, Texas, both sported hand-decorated KidVenture shirts, thoroughly enjoying their second AirVenture.
Eight-year-old Evan said he hopes to learn to fly for a hobby, especially one airplane in particular: "I want to be a Mustang pilot," Evan said, which exactly matched the text on his personalized T-shirt.
Through the EAA Young Eagles program Evan has already flown in a Piper Cub and a Cessna 172. When asked if he liked flying in airplanes, Evan's eyes lit up and his answer was a simple, definitive, "Yes."
Five-and-a-half-year-old Eric, who wants to one day be a champion race car driver, isn't as infatuated with airplanes as his older brother, but both boys agree that taking Bell helicopter rides is their favorite part of AirVenture.
The hands-on activities tent buzzed with excitement and concentration as kids of all ages colored their very own wooden glider.
Decorating her plane using the brightest-colored markers at her disposal was 8-year-old Kayla Kulhanek from Chicago, Illinois.
"My favorite part is walking around and looking at all the airplanes," Kayla said.
And Kayla's plans for after finishing her glider? "Look at more airplanes!"
The hands-on activities tent also houses pedal planes resembling F-14 Tomcats for the younger kids.
Three-year-old Reed Cutrer eagerly jumped into a pedal plane and began navigating his way around the course, while mom Abbi captured his first AirVenture experiences on camera.
Polite and smiling, Reed got out of the plane and asked his mom if it was time to jump on the trampoline.
The trampoline he was referring to seemed to be a favorite among many of the kids, including 3-year-old Ava Bushby, who eagerly asked to go on "the big jumpy thing," after calling the Kiddie Hawk mechanical airplane "the most fun ride here."
Located right next to the main Pioneer Airport building are two space-themed bounce houses and two giant, inflatable slides shaped like airplanes-all of which were filled with and surrounded by kids who seemed to get a burst of energy the second the play area came into view.
With mom Andrea watching, 8-year-old Joey Ireland leapt from corner to corner in one of the bounce houses.
"It's so great that everything in this area is free for kids," said Andrea, who works at the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics. "We can't wait to come back next year."
To attend AirVenture for the first time, the family took a 16-hour bus trip from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is also Joey's first time outside the Keystone State.
Between bouncing somersaults, Joey vigorously nodded his head when asked if he likes airplanes, and said AirVenture is "lots of fun."
Henry Ponton from Cincinnati, Ohio, was third in line for the bounce house and could barely contain his excitement, hopping back and forth and chatting with others in line.
"This is my first time here ever," 5-year-old Henry said. "I can't wait to draw on my wooden airplane."
Big or small, there really is something here for them all.