Volunteers Really Run The Show
By ANN Contributor Aleta Vinas
Volunteers are the heart of Oshkosh EAA Air Venture. Without the
4,500 or so selfless people who give their time to this air show,
there wouldn't even BE an air show. Volunteers comprise about 95
percent of the air show staff.
These volunteers put in about 250,000 hours of service so
AirVenture can be prepared for the annual onslaught. Even the air
show performers are volunteers (though they do receive fuel and
Performing at AirVenture is by invitation only. Between 30 and
40 acts are invited to Oshkosh each year. The invitations extend to
new acts as well old favorites. Performing at Oshkosh is something
of an honor for air show performers. It's a big boost for their
bookings when a potential client sees "AirVenture" on the list of
venues to their resumes. Why? Because AirVenture engages only the
best acts for an audience that's both big and aviation-savvy.
You don't need any special qualifications to be a non-flying
volunteer at AirVenture. Enthusiasm is a plus. Granted, it helps to
be a "people person." Most of the volunteer jobs at the fly-in
involve communicating with the public. Since the EAA Communications
Center is open 'round-the-clock, the fly-in needs a lot of
volunteers. But those who serve there must get something out of it.
Some of them have come back each of the past 20 or 30 years.
Worried that, if you volunteer, you'll miss the show? Surprise.
there are volunteer jobs both before and after the fly-in. The
AirVenture Museum needs volunteers to prep aircraft before they're
moved into storage or put on display. The grounds keeping crew
needs help maintaining the grounds, including both the campsites
and the airport itself. That includes grass cutting, carpentry and
mechanical work. You know those Membership tents that are strewn
throughout the EAA property? The people who work there need help
hanging banners, putting together desks and assembling counter
tops. Those are just a few of the volunteer jobs open before and
after the show.
Perhaps you think the air show is too crowded for you, but you
want to help out anyway. How about an off-site position? For
example, Flight Line Operations at Outagamie County Airport needs
help parking aircraft. Since the B-17 flights originate there,
Outagamie needs shuttle drivers to drive passengers to and from the
Love kids? Well, then, there's plenty for you to do at Oshkosh.
And you get to give the kids back when it’s over. You can
work in Baby Services, where you can be a babysitter. You might
choose the Control Line. That's where volunteers help kids fly gas
powered model airplanes on a forty foot tether. KidVenture always
needs help in the huge tent-full of hands-on kid activities.
Some positions DO require special skills. Take the workshops,
for instance. If you're proficient in sheet metal, woodworking,
welding, fabric covering and the like, your skills are valued here.
At the International Aerobatic Club, you have to have knowledge of
aerobatics to work at the main desk. That way, you can answer most
of the questions you'll get from visitors.
If you have first aid training or you're a nurse, paramedic or
EMT, AirVenture needs you to stand by in case of a medical
Strictly speaking there’s not a skill requirement at
Information Oshkosh. But it sure helps to have an extensive
knowledge of the local area.
The shift lengths vary depending what you decide to do. They can
run from four to eight hours a day. If you only have a couple of
hours to spare and still want to help out, head to one of several
volunteer booths on the grounds and sign up. There's sure to be
something for you to do, even when your time is limited.
For a lot of volunteers, the pleasure is in the doing. While
there are no free tickets and nobody gets paid, volunteers can
receive a special commemorative patch. At the close of the airshow,
the chairman of each area submits names of the qualified volunteers
whom they believe earned a patch.
Some areas may offer mugs, t-shirts or other small remembrances
along with patches. The small freebies are certainly not what keep
some folks volunteering year after year and often bring their
friends along to help out. Wes Schmid has given his time to
AirVenture for a remarkable 45 years. Now, he's the chairman of the
educational forums at the Honda Pavilion. His crew is responsible
for having the right materials ready for each forum. That includes
projectors, microphones, white boards and the like. Schmid has
nothing but good things to say about the dozen or so volunteers he
supervises. He also speaks highly of the speakers who participate
in the forums. He says they're often “professors from major
universities, NASA people, industry top officials, government
officials -- and they’re all volunteers. If their companies
won’t pay their way to Oshkosh, some of them plan their
vacations so they can take it during Oshkosh."
What keeps Schmid coming back after forty-five years? “I
love airplanes," he says. "It’s that simple. I like the
history of aviation. I like the homebuilts, the antiques,
ultralights, anything that flies.”
Compared to Schmid, Noel Marshall is practically a
“newbie.” She's only been a volunteer for 12 years.
That's compared to Schmid’s 45. Marshall started in 1992 when
her husband was hired by the EAA as a staff member. The
then-chairman of Services to Disabled Veterans decided move to
another work area. For Marshall, who has a “real” job
as a speech therapist for the injured and disabled, the opportunity
fit like a glove.
While it was right up her alley, Marshall admits “I
didn’t know what I was getting into." Still, she says, "I
certainly knew the kind of people I’d be dealing with."
Marshall and her co-chairman take care of about three different
groups every year. The full day tour includes a walk around the
grounds, a tram ride and a picnic.
“We get them into
as many aircraft as we can," she says. Some of the groups that have
used Noel Marshall's services include The Paralyzed Veterans
Association, Blind Veterans and Veterans Homes.
In 1991 she added Chairman of "Protect Our Planes" to her
resume. What's that all about? “EAA has a mission," says
Marshall: get people to bring their extraordinary -- and "ordinary"
-- aircraft to AirVenture. She also wants them to feel comfortable
leaving their planes while enjoying the show, knowing someone is
keeping watch over their aircraft.
"We cover all five areas -- ultralights, homebuilts, vintage
[planes], warbirds and AeroShell Square," she says.
Marshall first volunteered because her husband went to work at
the EAA. But now, she says, “I just love the event and
working with the disabled Vets. I learn a lot from them.
They’re fun, a fun, appreciative group, who wouldn’t
want to be with that?”
People from 14-years old (who work under supervision) to those
well into their 80s volunteer to make AirVenture a pleasure.
Volunteering is certainly not mandatory. But then there's
Many will be shocked to find,
When the day of judgment nears,
That there’s a special place in Heaven,
Set aside for volunteers.
Furnished with big recliners,
Satin couches and footstools,
Where there are no committee chairmen,
No yard sales or rest area coffee to serve,
No library duty or bulletin assembly,
There will be nothing to print or staple,
Not one thing to fold or mail,
Telephone lists will be outlawed.
But a finger snap will bring
Cool drinks and gourmet dinners
And rare treats fit for a king.
You ask, “Who’ll serve these privileged
And work for all they’re worth?” .
Why, all those who reaped the benefits,
And not once volunteered on Earth.