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Family Fun at OSH16

By Megan Esau

Family-friendly activities abound at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2016, including the new Passport to Aviation program at the Discover Aviation Center on the Four Corners.

Families who visit the Discover Aviation Center will receive a passport with a list of locations to visit. Once they have collected stamps from all the locations, participants return to the Discover Aviation Center to receive a prize.

KidVenture will also be back this year providing 5 acres of family fun, including 20,000 square feet within the hangars at Pioneer Airport where families can escape rain or heat.

The purpose of the new Passport to Aviation program is to get families to explore various areas of the AirVenture grounds to see how much aviation has to offer. As in a government passport, the EAA passport is a place to collect stamps to record and remember your Oshkosh travels.

EAA hopes that by creating the passport program visitors are going “to different locations on the grounds and to different vendors that have had an influence on the aviation industry,” Tricia Rathermel, who works to help market EAA to the world, said.

“The reason it’s great for families is it’s a fun activity to collect stamps, and it gives people a (way) to look for things as they travel around,” she said.

Popular activities at KidVenture include the Future A&P program, where kids can learn mechanical basics from riveting to taking apart an engine. Those who complete all eight booths will receive a 35-piece tool set.

Similarly, children who complete the pilot booths related to weather and navigation can earn their own flight bags.

These activities help “inspire the upcoming generations so that they can repopulate the ranks of aviation enthusiasts,” said Dan Majka, chairman of KidVenture and member of EAA’s board of directors. “We’re not necessarily trying to make everybody a pilot, but we are trying to develop an interest or even so far as a love of aviation in all of its forms.”

Additional offerings at KidVenture include RC and control-line flying, balsa glider construction, the STEM space shuttle bus, and the chance to sit inside a Mercury 7 space capsule and a full-sized B-25 nose section that was built by a group of children from Colorado.

Four-year-old Caden Polak and 5-year-old Anna Gravelle are looking forward to attending this year’s KidVenture.

“They like sitting in the little [pedal] planes,” Caden’s mother, Crystal Polak, said. “Caden’s into building things, so he likes to build the model airplanes, and they get a kick out of watching the RC planes even though they don’t get to fly them.”

Flight experiences are also a great way for parents to share aviation with their kids. Crystal said Caden is receiving a Ford Tri-Motor flight for his birthday this year and is hoping to save enough of his own money for a Bell 47 helicopter ride.

“He’s been saving coins, any spare change he can find,” Crystal Polak said.

The Polaks have been coming to AirVenture for 32 years for family reunions and said other kid favorites include the Ford Motor Company pavilion and the night air shows.

Families can also make their own AirVenture fun. The Polaks bring squirt guns and glow sticks for the campground, and every day they go for 10 o’clock ice cream.

“That’s a tradition,” Crystal Polak said. “Every day at 10 o’clock everybody gets ice cream.”

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