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Fri, Jul 21, 2006

'Don't Worry... We Won't Make You Sleep Under A Bush'

Adventures In Oshkosh Housing

by ANN Correspondent Rose Dorcey

Most likely, a bush isn't what you have in mind if you plan to stay a week in Oshkosh. Therefore, the friendly, helpful people at the Oshkosh Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) assembled a unit of volunteers to help find accommodations more comfortable than a bush.

Led by Arlene Schmuhl, the Regional Group Project Manager for the Oshkosh CVB, up to 50 volunteers are hard at work on the EAA Housing Hotline (920-235-3007). Taking calls from those who plan ahead, and those who wait until the last minute, the devoted unpaid helpers find places for weary AirVenture attendees to lay their heads. As it turns out, they may lay them in unlikely places.

The Oshkosh YMCA offers indoor camping. An Oshkosh Catholic Church rents out rooms in an empty convent. Oshkosh residents offer rooms or their entire homes, and the UW-Oshkosh opens their dormitories. You might find a quaint bed and breakfast. And then there's that other option, hotel rooms. Yes, they are available, but adventurous types are best suited for this option.

Schmuhl said that she calls the Oshkosh hotels twice daily during AirVenture, to find out which ones have openings. "It requires an adventurous type," she said. "Most hotels get cancellations and no-shows, so if you don't mind staying at a different hotel each night; we can probably find a room."

Private homes are a popular option. "Private housing is always available. We have never run out," said Schmuhl. Residents within a ten-mile radius of Oshkosh register their homes with the CVB. In 1998, according to Schmuhl, 697 homes were registered. The number has gone down, she said, mostly because there is no need for the CVB to be involved. Many times, a family or group of people rent the same home in consecutive years. The families get to know each other, and have even begun home swapping, where the Oshkosh family goes to stay at the AirVenture attendees' home that week.

The Oshkosh CVB works at AirVenture in a building located about 150' southwest of the control tower. Many people stay up to 50 miles away the first night, according to Schmuhl, and then go to see her at the Visitor Information and Housing Referral booth to find a comfortable bed in the Oshkosh area. Schmuhl and her crew help folks from all over the world, which presents challenges of its own. Many don't speak English, so they run over to the International Visitor's Tent to find help in translating the information.

In her ninth year as the Oshkosh Housing Chairperson, Schmuhl has this advice for AirVenture attendees who don't have a place to stay. "Show up. One of my favorite volunteers told someone, 'Don't worry; we won't make you stay under a bush'. AirVenture housing is pretty much a part of what the Oshkosh CVB Housing does year-round. We'll work hard to find a place for you to stay."

Besides, Schmuhl loves what she does. "Being right there on the grounds, one-on-one with all the visitors is what it's all about. I give people rides at the end of the day. People use my cell phone to make calls. Eight days right there with everybody; it's great."

FMI: www.oshkoshcvb.org

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