John McKenzie, EAA 1110671, had a 120-day countdown on his calendar precisely for this moment – the opening of Camp Scholler prior to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2017.
Friday morning saw around 50-60 people in line bright and early to register for their camping permit at Camp Scholler and stake off their spot on the grounds, the first day campers were able to do so this year.
For John, this was a day he’d been looking forward to for months.
“We got a good day for it,” he said. “It’s just a beautiful, sunny day. You talk to everyone around here and they’re getting excited. I’ve been counting down since 120 days before this.”
Like many of the early campers at Camp Scholler on Friday, John is an EAA volunteer and that’s a huge reason he’s back in Oshkosh.
“The people I volunteer with are great,” he said. “They take very good care of us. … It’s just a fun time. I started volunteering when I was still working full-time. I would take two weeks of vacation just to do this.”
While John lives a short distance away in Menasha, Wisconsin, there were a number of other people at Camp Scholler on Friday that traveled much further to get their camping spot.
Wally Parson, EAA 143073 and a Loves Park, Illinois, resident, has been coming to AirVenture since the 1960s, when the event was held in Rockford, Illinois. Wally’s close proximity to EAA’s fly-in convention in Rockford allowed him to attend as a child and his love for EAA and aviation has continued over the past 40-plus years.
“My dad and I went to air shows, built models together, we just loved aircraft and aviation,” Wally said. “With EAA in Rockford, we had a common thread there, a bond. … It continued with EAA as far as what they’re promoting with aviation and the future.”
Although the air show itself is something Wally enjoys watching, the camping experience and volunteering are huge drawing points as well.
“It’s a beautiful week just to relax and volunteer and take it all in,” he said. “The people you meet at the campgrounds – I’ve met people from all over the world.”
Many of the campers who arrived early have been coming to Oshkosh for years and have developed family-like relationships with other campers. Some of them got to reconnect on Friday morning.
Camp Scholler Registration Operations Manager Liesl Wrolstad said that’s one of the unique aspects of AirVenture and is what make days like Friday’s campground opening special.
“They’re really, really like a family,” Liesl said. “It’s cool to see that they come back year after year and their camaraderie is fantastic. The campground itself is fantastic. There’s such a good energy that comes out with everyone on opening day. Everyone’s so excited to be there and it’s just a really neat experience. As the campground fills up, it just grows and grows.”
To learn more about camping at AirVenture, visit our website.