The Proverbial $100 Hamburger Doesn't Get Any Better Than
by ANN Correspondent Larry Stencel
If you didn't know better, you might think that you had somehow
entered a time warp as you pull into the Central County Airport in
Iola, WI (68C) for their Friday lunch. You see an absolutely
pristine vintage Packard limousine with wooden wheels parked next
to an old wooden hangar, three grass runways, a Waco biplane and a
Cessna Airmaster pushed into the nearby uncut grass.
Cessna 140's, Cubs, Champs, Ercoupes, homebuilts, a Luscombe and
a Pietenpol and dozens of other airplanes are parked all around a
newer red hangar.
Add the smells of barbecued food and four rows of picnic tables
set end to end in inside a beautiful clubhouse hangar. More tables
sit just outside on this gorgeous summer day and all are nearly
filled to capacity with folks eating. This is the now infamous
Friday lunch served to "members only" by the Central County Flyer's
Association at Iola, 37 nautical miles northwest of Oshkosh.
Iola is a small town of about 1,300 widely known for its very
large annual Old Car Show and Swap Meet held each July - one of the
largest in the Nation. During 2008, more than 100,000 people
attended. It's also home to Krause Publications, which bills itself
as the worlds largest publisher of magazines and books aimed at
hobbyists and collectors. The Company publishes 53 magazines and
circulars for the special interest enthusiast plus a plethora of
like books. The Company was started in 1952 by a local carpenter,
Chet Krause, who was interested in coins and published a single
page "Numismatic News."
On a gorgeous Friday just days after AirVenture 2008, my wife
and I decided to take the short drive to Iola to see for ourselves
what the all the hubbub was about. What we experienced was a treat
beyond our expectations.
Heading north out of Waupaca on County Highway E, we got a hint
of what was to come when we saw a farmstead with an old early '50's
Hudson Hornet being worked -- hood up --- and a 50's
Studebaker plus a homebuilt airplane without wings sitting next to
a neat as a pin garage with visible gas pump. The "mechanic"
working the Hudson was nothing more than a mannequin prop. Wow!
Of course, we had to go back to get a picture.
Coming up to the airport, we see two of the grass runways being
used as a parking area for all the visiting airplanes. We would
later learn that their previous record for numbers of airplanes
flying in was broken that day -- 60 airplanes, plus two helicopters
had come in for lunch.
Sitting next to the Central County Flyer's Association hangar
was a beautiful Cessna 140 sitting on wheeled skis which belongs to
Bill Kinsman, an early EAA member and President of the Central
County Airport Association. He's also the chief cook of the Friday
luncheon cookouts. In order to eat, one must first obtain a
lifetime family associate membership in the Association for $10.
The Friday feast will set you back $7 more per person.
With our fees paid, we entered the chow line; this particular
day there were hamburgers and brats, corn on the cob, potato salad,
beans, watermelon, pie and a large birthday cake for one of the
members. Finding a seat near the open hangar door, we enjoyed the
food while watching the first few airplanes beginning to leave. The
menu changes each week but the food is always good and there's lots
Near the door is a display case showing some of the mementos of
94 year old member Paul Johns who soloed in 1929 after three 15
minute lessons. Paul went on to fly Pan Am Clippers from San
Francisco to Hawaii. On the wall above hangs a homemade nav chart
he actually used with a star tracker; you can't help but put this
in juxtaposition with the modern day GPS nav we now depend upon. We
look around the crowd... and there he is, smiling and eating near
We see a picture taken last year of a local retired airline
pilot making a low pass over the airport in a DC-3. Everywhere you
look there are interesting aviation pictures and hanging from the
ceiling are great numbers of large model airplanes of every sort.
In the corner is a real handmade fireplace for those cold winter
Above the hangar door are large letters stating: Central Co.
Airport, est 1946, Built For The Love of Flying, CCF 2000. We
ask Bill Kinsman what the significance of the dates are. He tells
us that in 1946 the airport was built by a local doctor who had
learned how to fly and wanted a local airport. Within a few years
in the late 40's, he realized that he needed to turn the airport
into a public entity for liability and tax purposes.
How it finally came about is a story in itself, but the Central
County Airport Association was formed to own and manage the 138
acre airport, a former potato field... which it does to this
Circa the late '90's, the members came to own one of the hangars
which needed new trusses and a roof. The repair cost was far higher
than they expected or could afford. A suggestion to build an
entirely new hangar was spawned by a donation of $22,000 from a
local pilot and foundry CEO, Don Brunner, and $10,000 came from
Chet Krause. Other donations and pledges came in from near and far
and the Central County Flyer's Association was formed.
Around 2002, the new red hangar was completed. During spring of
2003, a hangar housewarming lunch for the regulars was served and
the word got out fast. In no time at all, Iola became THE
destination for Friday lunch in Central Wisconsin.
Today, there are about 550 members from all over the Midwest and
beyond. On this particular day, 13 new members join; ourselves
included. Bill tells us that they serve Friday lunch year around
except during AirVenture and that they additionally allow use of
the facility by outside organizations for the public good. Since
1981, they hold a fly in during the Iola Old Car Show; the members
feed breakfast for all who come by and provide transportation to
the car show for arriving pilots.
Watching the airplanes crank up and head out is a treat in
itself. Most had to taxi by the open hangar and we couldn't help
but think, this is how it used to be. The Waco cranks up and taxis
by followed by the Airmaster.
Almost all of the 60 visiting airplanes leave in little more
than an hours time. I'd hate to have to make a perfect landing
in front of THAT bunch, I thought.
Iola's Central County Airport and the Friday lunches served by
the Central County Flyer's Association is a unique, one of it's
kind "institution" in the area. Now that we're members, we'll be
back. Next time, with my airplane. Hope to see ya there.