|Pictured between their rigs are early bird campers (l to r) Carol and Jim Peale, Cindy Browning, and Sherry and Jerry Beckett.
June 28, 2013 - One of the most visible signs that EAA AirVenture 2013 is just around the corner is the arrival of the "early bird" campers: enthused members who travel from far and wide to ensure they get their favorite campsites.
For many of these members, coming to Oshkosh is the high point of the year, their only vacation, and their most deeply rooted tradition. Camping registration officially opened at 0700 Friday, and while some campers got in line this morning, others arrived even earlier.
A troop of trekkers reunites in Oshkosh each year. The first group to arrive purchases the necessary camping spots and awaits the arrival of the others. That's how things work for Jerry Beckett, EAA 95718, and his bride Sherry, of Bruce, Mississippi. They've camped in the same spot for the past four years.
The couple actually arrived in Oshkosh with their motor home on Wednesday. They've attended AirVenture for more than 30 years. An Army veteran, Jerry is also a homebuilder with three Pitts Specials, and a pair of Van's - RV-3 and RV-4 - to his credit. Sherry remarked that his building activities are an "ongoing process." Jerry even flew one of his Pitts Specials into AirVenture in 1996. He assured us that a tent does fit in the plane "down by your leg on the side of the cockpit."
Jim Peale, EAA 15132, and his wife Carol are also in on the deal. The couple hails from Lillian, Alabama, or "The real LA" as they all call it. Jim's five-digit EAA number reveals that he's a seasoned member. He started attending the convention when it still took place in Rockford, Illinois.
An aeronautical engineer, Jim was one of the last project managers on the Douglas C-47. He is also an experienced Bellanca Cruisair pilot. In a similar manner to the Becketts, the Peales arrived in Oshkosh early to await the opening of camping services, but they did so on Monday - two days prior to the Becketts!
Another member of the party, Cindy Browning, is a Beech Bonanza pilot. She'll be joined later by her husband, Bert. The couple calls Sioux Falls, South Dakota, their home. A total of five couples camp together.
Motorcycles are the preferred mode of transportation for most of the group after the motor homes are parked and connected to water and electric utilities in Camp Scholler. And each year the group seems to add another set of friends to their ranks. With great anticipation and friendly hospitality, these friends establish their campsites and relax for the weeks prior to opening day as they become more engulfed in spirit of AirVenture.
Ready to make new friends, they are the first of many who journey to Oshkosh and become part of the largest camping city in the world, sharing in the fellowship of flight.
Are you camping at AirVenture this year? Get your tickets before the discount ends on June 30, and purchase camping while your at it.