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International Visitors Tent Is its Own Community

By Barbara A. Schmitz

July 24, 2017 - It’s been called the United Nations of Oshkosh, but the International Visitors Tent on the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh grounds is more than that.

The tent and its 35 volunteers, all fluent in a foreign language, answer questions and provide a resting place for international fly-in convention visitors. Those who stop by the tent can relax, check their e-mail on a wired computer, or leave a message to reach out to family and friends whose cellphones don’t work in the United States.

Michel Bryson, chairwoman since 2004 and a 25-year AirVenture volunteer, said this year they are also holding a session, “Learn About EAA Chapters,” at 1 p.m. Wednesday. Added because of interest from former foreign visitors, the session will cover what chapters do and how to start one, as well as answer other general questions.

“We’re trying to enhance the role of chapters on an international basis,” she said. “We want to make sure our foreign visitors understand what EAA stands for and what it can do for their local and aviation communities.”

In addition, the annual International Visitors Parade will be held Friday. Visitors should come to the tent around 11:30 a.m. so they can be grouped alphabetically by country. At noon, the group will then walk, while waving their respective countries’ flags, to the Communications Tower for a welcome speech. Typically several hundred people participate in the parade, Michel said.

Overall, 2,000-2,500 international visitors from 60-70 countries are represented at AirVenture each year and register at the tent. But, the number is likely higher because some people don’t bother to register.

Michel said the International Visitors Tent has actually grown into its own community. “It’s a place where you make new friends and meet up with old ones,” she said. “People will come back year after year, and sit and talk to people they likely wouldn’t talk to at home. People may not really get along in the real world, but they always get along at AirVenture.”

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