#OSH19 First Thoughts

4:50 AM

By Derek Thomas,
Airplanista Food & Entertainment Editor

While technically not my first visit to EAA’s Airventure in Oshkosh, which was in 1999, this is my first “extended stay.” On my first trip in, we flew in, stayed about five hours, and flew out. This is called “scratching the surface,” also known, in this case, as creating an itch.

For the last twenty years, I have dreamed and plotted and schemed to find my way back, and more than just “back”, but to spend some quality time here. On my first night, we dined at Ardy & Ed’s Diner, an icon both in Oshkosh and air show lore. It did not disappoint.

While “Osh-SPLASH” was threatening to kill all air traffic, the thrill of a few biz jets, a turboprop and a C-47 on very short final to runway 27 made the double beef burger and root beer go down just fine. Throw in some fine company and conversation with fellow Air-Adventurers, meeting a couple of my favorite bloggers and podcast folks - and the arrival night was already well on its way to satisfying my long-held Oshkosh dreams.

Then there was Sunday. Sunday-Funday? Not so much. Driving in to our parking spot, there were a few “wish I had four-wheel-drive” moments.  Shoes filled with water almost immediately. Drainage ditches that one long-time visitor had never seen wet before were running full-tilt-boogie. But no matter, there’s a show to put on!

The FISK arrival was all but silent. Tower frequencies, ditto. But there is so much happening on the grounds, it’s impossible to be disappointed. A pair of warbirds were doing practice maneuvers over the field. A KC-135 was clearly visible as it held over Warbird Island, waiting for a Mooney mass arrival. If you’ve never witnessed wave-after-wave of aircraft coming, as far as the eye can see, well, just do it. It was a sight I’ll not soon forget.

We wandered around the grounds a bit, talked about the aircraft slowly being pushed and pulled into static positions, and made our way to the EAA Museum. Never been? It’s a “WOW” spot. “If I build it they will come” displayed in true life is here, with more homebuilt aircraft than you’d imagine could fit in the space. From a replica Wright Flyer to Burt Rutan’s wildest concepts - here they are.

At the end of day, there was one thought that returned to me time and again. And it was all due to people. Arbitrarily sitting next to a couple on the flight line – turns out he’s a several-tours-of-duty-veteran, and a guy who spent nine years building his very own RV-10 – we talked like old friends. Every contact I’ve had with EAA crew today, from EAA Communications Director Dick Knapinski to a bus driver, the parking lot staff, museum volunteers - everyone, all of them, were genuinely happy to see us, talk to us and guide us.

And then the “townies”, as we used to call them when I was shipped off to military academy - proved to be great people as well. At Parnell’s Place, I made several friends over lunch (real, true walleye, and a Spotted Cow. Delicious!). Filled mainly with locals, they chatted me up as much as I did them. The servers treated me like long lost family. Merely stopping in to the Target store - the staff was as helpful as I’ve ever seen.

I don’t know what’s in the Lake Winnebago water, but I’m looking forward to drinking a lot more of it over the next several days of #OSH19. 

Is it really only Sunday?

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