Back Home at Oshkosh

AVweb continues its coverage of EAA AirVenture 1998 ... .


Osh '98

Camping Off-SiteFor hundreds of EAA Fly-In devotees, theirannual pilgrimage is more than a week of air shows, vendor booths, and sunburns. It’s aweek-long visit to their second home at one of several commercial campsites within drivingdistance of Oshkosh. Individuals and families that camp off-site return year after year tonot only the same campground, but the same campsite, setting up their fifth-wheels andtents next to the same folks they’ve had as neighbors for years.

During most of the year, Circle R Campground, 3 miles south of Steve Wittman Field, ishome to vacationing fishermen visiting nearby Lake Winnebago. But for one week of theyear, the "Fish Cleaning Hut" is silent and the talk around the porch of the RecHall is all of Ercoupes, warbirds, and ultralights.

A Little City to the South

Camping Off-SiteRandy Streblow, one of the family owners of Circle R, said thatcamp capacity more than doubles during the week of the Oshkosh air shows. "We haveabout 500 spaces in the campground this week," Streblow said. "During the restof the year we have 200, tops." Connie Streblow, Randy’s wife, added that withturn-around, they have over 700 reservations during the week of the show. "It’s likeliving in a city all by itself," she said. "The Fly-In is a big city in itselfand we’re a little city just to the south."

Circle R fills up for spaces with electric power sometime in April. "Last yearwhen the airshow closed we already had 120 reservations for this year’s show," Conniesaid. Randy added, "People like to come back to their same spots year after year. Oneyear we expanded the campground and re-numbered the sites, and that resulted in a lot ofpeople getting upset. We’d say, ‘You’re in site 102’ and they’d argue, ‘NO! I’m always insite 74!’ Well, site 102 used to be called site 74 so it was the same place, but it suremade registrations interesting that year." The Streblows try to make overflow spacesavailable so they never have to turn away tent campers who do not need water orelectricity on site. "You can always squeeze in another tent," laughed Connie.

Advance Registrations

The availability of advance registrations is a big difference from on-site camping atCamp Scholler or under-the-wing camping with your airplane. "I’ve been coming herefor maybe 10 years," said one camper. "I have the perfect spot and know most ofthe people that stay on either side of us. The fellow who told me about this place has hadhis same spot since 1984." His son agreed about the home-like atmosphere. "Ilike coming here. I know all the kids because we come here every year."

The "perfect spot" may mean more than proximity to restrooms, showers, orfriends. Under most wind conditions, the campers have a front row seat every evening forthe departures from the airshow. The ultralight field is close by, so those aircraft canbe spotted to the north. Even the seaplanes often pass right overhead. Campers sit out intheir temporary front yards and watch the parade of airplanes go by, easily close enoughfor identification. During the day, the campground owners cater to their aviation-mindedvisitors by providing a bus that runs between Circle R and the airfield.

Camping Off-SiteOff-site campgrounds are especially attractive to families withmembers not interested in airplanes (hard to believe, we know, but it happens). Circle Rhas a Recreation Hall with a television, pool table, video games and microwave, mostlyused by teenagers who feel separated from their normal "totally wired" existenceby the campground experience. There is a playground for younger kids as well as a historymuseum and an assortment of animals. "Some folks never go up to the airshow,"said Connie Streblow. "They just stay in camp visiting with their friends andrelaxing, or go see some of the other attractions in this area, or go shopping."

But most of the campers at Circle R during the week of the Oshkosh Fly-In are pilotsand die-hard aviation enthusiasts. The availability of advance reservations, the proximityto the airfield, the presence of regulars who come back year after year, and the commonaviation interests of most campers helps to create an environment that seems like a homeaway from home.