Winning Essays from Airplanista’s “For the Love of OSH” Essay Competition (Grand Prize Winner)

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This post starts a seven-part series featuring the essays submitted by the seven finalists from our just-concluded Essay Competition at #Oshbash 2019. Essays were scored anonymously by a panel of judges. I will continue to post additional essays in the coming days and weeks - dan

Foreflight Grand Prize Winner: Shawn Lynch

How do I sum up my own 41 years of involvement, passion, and enthusiasm for Oshkosh and the world’s greatest aviation event? It has become family.

It’s easy to look at AirVenture and say “Wow, that’s a lot of planes. That is neat.” The obvious thing (the planes) is not only neat, it is spectacular, but the airplanes are only the “tip of the propeller.” I have been attending AirVenture from birth (July 19, 1978 - I was a few weeks old). Until age twenty-five, I had only missed a single Oshkosh Fly-In (1985... Concorde’s first visit).

For my brother and I, we looked forward to OSH more than Christmas. During our childhood days, it was about the planes. Being at Oshkosh was like our own version of Top Gun: walking around fighter jets, smelling the jet exhaust, watching them roar airborne with afterburners a glow.

We didn’t know how lucky we were. We owe every one of those weeks at OSH to our parents for letting us travel hundreds of miles from our homes in southern Illinois and W Palm Beach, FL. On top of that though, we ultimately owe it to our Grandparents for taking us. My Grandpa wanted me to have a perfect lifetime attendance (he was mad in 1985). When I Commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force and missed my second OSH due to Air Battle Manager training, he was proud.

Something happened over the course of those Top Gun summers camping with Grandpa and Grandma. We started seeing these volunteers riding motor scooters and parking planes. To a pre-sixteen teenager, this looked even cooler than just being around the planes. We found out to be a biker, you had to be 16. Oshkosh 1994... I was old enough. As soon as camp was set up and we got the “ok” to go check things out, we dashed to the first volunteer sign on the flight line.

As volunteers, we experienced Air Venture in a way we never had before. We upgraded from Top Gun to Blue Angels. Volunteering was exciting and compelling... we were running the show! More uniquely though, we met all these really fun and friendly volunteers who liked Oshkosh and airplanes just like us.

It’s been twenty-five years since we started volunteering on the Antique Classic (now Vintage) Flightline. Our sister even began volunteering with us. Our Grandparents have passed away and I don’t make it to OSH every summer. Not being there is hard and I am a little sad that week, not because I miss the planes... I miss my family and the people who have become my “Oshkosh family” throughout the years. Ask any #AVGEEKS or us diehard #OSHNUTS if we get bored seeing the same planes every year... NEVER! But Oshkosh is so much bigger and goes way beyond the airplanes. Oshkosh is about the people we see year after year who are now our “Oshkosh family.”

This wonderful place called AirVenture Oshkosh! Danny “Hollywood” Clisham has been an AirVenture Airshow announcer for as long as I can remember. Following the Saturday Night Airshow last year (2018) he said something so touching about what AirVenture is: “Can you believe the miracle that EAA Founders Paul and Audrey Poberezny created here?” AirVenture Oshkosh is a miracle! Nowhere else on earth do so many people come to celebrate airplanes, and through that aviation connection, strangers become family.

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