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New Zealand AirVenture Volunteers Head South for the Summer

Rod and Arlene Smith

October 1, 2009 — AirVenture 2009 ended in July, but some volunteers just didn’t want to go home.  Rod and Arlene Smith have volunteered for three consecutive years and for them, summer is never over.  You see, the Smiths live in New Zealand, and by keeping AirVenture in their plans, they are guaranteed to have warm weather year-round.

This year, the Smiths arrived in Oshkosh in their rented motor home at the end of June.  During the convention, Arlene volunteered in the print shop while Rod helped out in the fabrication shop. After the show, Rod and Arlene took a few side trips to Canada and Michigan to visit friends, but soon they were back in Oshkosh to help out some more.  “We love the country; although it’s beautiful, it’s the people that make it and we’ve met some super people,” Arlene said.  Rod agrees, saying people are always willing to help.

“I was walking back from the [fabrication] shop a couple of evenings and Paul [Poberezny] pulls up beside me in his Cadillac and said, ’Hop in, where’s your campsite?’ It’s amazing, absolutely amazing,” Rod said.

During AirVenture, the Smiths give it their all at work and play.  Three years ago, Arlene won first prize for her quilting block of Jean Batten, the first woman to fly non-stop from England to New Zealand. Last year, she won third prize for a block depicting the 94th Aero Squadron’s “Hat-in-the-Ring” insignia.

The Smiths live in Auckland when they’re not traveling.  Arlene says summers in New Zealand are a year-round affair as opposed to the three month sprint that describes summers in Wisconsin.  Rod adds that New Zealanders are a beach people who enjoy lots of fishing and sailing. While they enjoy AirVenture, Rod has dabbled in aviation south of the equator. “I was involved with a youth group number 40 squadron in Auckland, which we call Air Training Corps…which was teaching young people to go solo in small fixed-wing airplanes, probably similar to the Young Eagles here, but on a very much smaller scale,” Rod said. Arlene adds with a laugh, “I just tag along. I enjoy travel and we have had some wonderful experiences here [in Oshkosh.]” 

By now, Rod and Arlene are flying to the southern latitudes and into spring, while summer for many of us is many flips of the calendar away. 

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