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North 40 Camping Is All About Comradery

By Laura Beck

July 27, 2018 - Filet mignon, fried pickles, and barbeque shrimp have all been on the menu at Dan Sweeney’s compound in Row 508 in the North 40 camping area. 

Dan camps next to his plane with his son and numerous friends. The Virginia Beach, Virginia, resident said he finds new friends every day at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018.  

“You have a common bond,” Dan said. “You may never see each other again but for a moment you connect. It’s beautiful.”

The North 40 is the largest area at the convention where people can camp next to their planes — or join friends for a week under the stars at their planes. Towels and clothes dry on propellers. Coffee and conversations flow easily.

“This is where you want to be,” said Jay Honeck, EAA 235506, of Port Aransas, Texas. He and his wife, Mary, have been coming to Oshkosh for 36 years. His “city” in the North 40 is notable for its Texas flag flying high above the planes.

Jay and his core group of campers, between seven and 10 in total, rent a storage area at a farm about an hour from Oshkosh. The day before he arrives, the farmer brings everything over in a large trailer and unpacks the bikes, generator, huge tent, microwave, coffee pots, and more.

“You want coffee,” Jay asks all passersby. “You want to charge you phone?”

Such hospitality is common as you wander through the thousands of planes and campers that line Runway 9/18. A PC-12 turboprop sits next to a Cessna 172. Stories are shared and friendships are forged.

There are dozens of portable toilets on the 1.6-mile semicircle around the runway, shuttle buses taking people to the north entrance of the convention, a store, a restaurant, and two permanent structures housing shower and bathroom facilities. There are, of course, many outlets near each facility where people set up a second camp to charge their devices.

The Pirates of the North 40 sit on the flightline north of the runway, on the edge of the airport grounds. There are 50 campers this year and several dozen planes that are part of the group, said John Theune, EAA 9002774, of Severna Park, Maryland. On Tuesday morning bacon and French toast were on the menu, and pork for the evening luau. 

“Come join us,” several members yelled to people walking near the camp. The smell of bacon wafted throughout the rows of planes.

The group, which started with the vendor Women Fly and another company that met across the aisle at the convention, has been coming to Oshkosh for 30 years.

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