So you’re the spouse of a pilot and you’re headed to Oshkosh for the first time. ME TOO! Well, I mean I was. That is, I’m still a spouse of a pilot. Michael and I are still married. But last year was my first time. First time at AirVenture, I mean. Not the first time married. Well, ok, technically this is my first time married, but we’ve been married for almost 21 years, so it’s not like I’m new to be being married. Just new to Oshkosh.
Let me start over.
So you’re the spouse of a pilot headed to AirVenture for the first time and you want to know what you will do while there? This is the situation I was in last year, and my solution was to bring everything I owned. Just in case. YOU NEVER KNOW.
“Maybe in Wisconsin I’ll want to do some watercolor sketches! Better bring some paper, and brushes, and paint tubes, and a little portable easel…”
That was me.
You don’t have to be like me.
Truth told, what I had imagined before we left was a lot of time spent at the camp-site while Michael went off to do airplaney things. What actually happened was not planned. I joined Michael on the grounds and actually- get this- enjoyed myself while there. (WHO COULD HAVE FORESEEN THIS. Well, everyone who’s ever been to Oshkosh, probably.)
Here’s what I recommend you do.
First – GET THE APP. (Available on Apple AND Android)
Well, get it as soon as it becomes available. (I’ll update this post when it does- or you can check the EAA site or newsletter) Last year’s app gave you maps of the grounds, schedules for events, it told you where you can eat and what’s on the menu. It was invaluable.
Until it’s available, look through the scheduled events and (depending on how long your stay in Oshkosh will be) make sure to make note of 4 or 5 things you’d like to do. This is actually harder than it sounds because whoever writes the descriptions for these events is a master of understatement. Then again, if I were the one writing the descriptions, they’d be exploding with hyperbole. “OMG SO MANY MUSTANGS, THE NOISE THEY MAKE WILL MAKE YOU SQUEE LIKE A THREE YEAR OLD.”
If you’re reading through the lists and you don’t see anything that immediately tickles your fancy, don’t feel like you need to choose. Once you’re there you will likely find lots of fancy ticklers! Just make note of what’s going on so that when you get there and decide there’s something not to be missed, you’ll have a general idea of when to go see it.
Last year I really wanted to see the hot air balloons. When I was a kid, the farmer whose field was situated behind our house used to let the big balloons take off from his field. It’s been years since I’ve seen something like that and I was hoping to catch it. Unfortunately I forgot to make a note of when the balloon show was scheduled and only remembered when I heard some folks gushing about it later that day. It didn’t ruin my trip or anything (there was plenty to see and be distracted by), but this year I plan to be a bit more diligent about when things are happening. (I’m going to be there for that balloon launch.)
If you’re looking for suggestions, my first one is obvious, the air shows are extremely popular. Fortunately there’s almost no spot on the grounds that’s bad for viewing them. We were even able to watch the Blue Angels practice right over our heads at our campsite.
I also really recommend you try to make it to at least one or two of the twilight shows. There was a commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Doolittle raid last year that was breathtaking. The last surviving veteran of the raid was there, as well as two of Doolittle’s grandchildren.
The action in this video really picks up at the 4:30 mark when they performed a bit of a re-enactment for guests. As outstanding as this video is, it just doesn’t do justice to what it was like to experience it. The explosions were well timed and having those big warbirds repeatedly swooping overhead was intense.
Speaking of warbirds, they were my personal favorite thing to visit while at Airventure. In fact, I dragged Michael to go visit them at least once a day for our entire visit there. While he was checking out each plane, I was indulging my inner art goober and photographing the nose art, which happens to be one of my favorite types of vintage illustration work- the cheekier the better! AND! Last year the EAA museum had an exhibition of WWII nose art on loan from the Air Force!
I. Was. In. Heaven. I tried to photograph every single one. I’m really going to miss that exhibit this year. So much sassy fun!
Speaking of the museum, definitely plan on stopping in. We went twice- once on a rather warm day (the museum is air conditioned) and once on the weekend when we knew the crowd size was going to be increased for the air shows.
But the highlight for the trip for the both of us last year? That had to be the Theater in the Woods interview with all 7 remaining Apollo era astronauts AND Gene Kranz, who happens to be one of my favorite people. (Incidentally, Michael highly recommends his book Failure is Not an Option. And though Mr Kraft has sadly passed away, his book Flight: My Life in Mission Control was mentioned several times that night. Michael loved it too.)
As for all of those things I brought to entertain me? Well I won’t say I didn’t use any of them- I did read from my kindle at night before going to sleep. And I did use my DSLR camera quite a bit during the day. (so glad I brought extra batteries.) But I didn’t use my laptop or my watercolor paints or any of the other things I’d brought to be a distraction.
Now, that was just my experience. The funny thing was, there were a surprising number of people in Oshkosh who just camped out and watched the air shows from their camp sites without ever entering the main grounds to AirVenture. Some of them wandered from site to site and struck up conversations with whoever they took a liking to. Or even felt moderately tolerable toward. This seemed like an ideal solution for folks who don’t like crowds, but are still extroverted enough to hold an entire conversation with complete strangers! I am not one of those people! But you do you, wacky extroverts! I still love ya. But from a distance. Because up close I am awkward and you scare me a wee bit.
What were we talking about?
Right! Another convenience the EAA people thought of- they provided WiFi! Now, keep in mind, on any given day of AirVenture, there were several thousand people trying to use it. But it WAS available. AND! There was even an “internet cafe” in Camp Scholler (read: temporary hut -air conditioned, if my memory serves me correctly) with individual workstations and plugs for charging laptops, etc. I wish I could find the pic I took of this place because my memory of what was available inside is hazy. Or maybe I only imagined that I took a photo.
Anyway, my point is that should you need a break from Airplane Magic Kingdom via the interwebz, you’ll be able to connect to your social medias just fine.
“BUT WAIT! What if I bring kids!?”
I will admit that Michael and I- having not brought any children with us, didn’t focus on all of the activities AirVenture had planned for the kiddos. BUT! I DO remember that Stan Lee showed up last year. Yes, THAT Stan Lee. AND! He’d designed a new super hero- named Aviore- for EAA’s Young Eagles program!
I hate to brag, but… I totally got to meet him. Not Stan Lee, I met Aviore. Or rather, I met the EAA intern who was dressed up like Aviore!
I think they picked him because he had the best hair. Anyway, the important thing is that I am now two Kevin Bacon points away from Stan Lee. And THREE Kevin Bacon points away from Iron Man. HELLO! How jealous are you right now?
But that’s not the extent of kid related activity in Oshkosh- if you’ve got littles, definitely also check out KidVenture before your trip.
I don’t mean to overwhelm y’all, and this post is already longer than I’d meant for it to be. But really- there’s so much to see, I guarantee you’ll be glad you came to AirVenture. Check out the vid below to see more stuff I left out for the sake of space, but loved seeing last year and recommend you look out for. (Sky-writing! Seaplanes! Drones and radio controlled stunts!)
BTW, If you’re wondering what to bring, be sure to check out our previous post about packing for AirVenture here: Oshkosh from a Newb’s Eye View