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Camping Brings EAA Chapters Together
July 22, 2017 - Jim O’Brien, president of EAA Chapter 1 in Riverside, California, has a simple explanation for why he and other members of his chapter have camped together at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh for the past few years: community.
“Like [EAA founder] Paul [Poberezny] said, it’s the airplanes that get us together, but it’s the people that bring us back,” Jim explained. “It really makes for incredible social times and bonding, and just strengthens the whole experience.”
Chapter 1 is just one of a number of EAA chapters that will be camping together in Camp Scholler this week. While everyone at Camp Scholler is primarily here for aviation-related activities during the week, Jim noted that camping in particular is an attractive aspect of this week for him and other chapter members.
“In my opinion, camping at AirVenture is the other 50 percent of what AV is,” he said. “It would be like half the experience if I stayed off campus, because of the camaraderie and how everyone wants to tell their story. Laughter is attractive, and we have a lot of laughter coming from our area. It just adds to the experience.”
Kirk Fjetland, president of Chapter 237 in Blaine, Minnesota, said members of his chapter have been camping together at AirVenture for many years. Last year, the chapter won the Oshkosh Chapter Grand Champion Award, which was based partially on the number of chapter members camping together at AirVenture, and 65 Chapter 237 members camped together in 2016.
“Everybody is such good friends,” Kirk said. “We have such a great time. Everybody gets along with everybody. It keeps growing and growing and growing. We started out with four [camping] sites and jumped up to six. Last year we had 12, and this year we have 24. It’s just a fun aspect [of AirVenture] and the friendship aspect. The food doesn’t hurt. The three F’s for success: flying, food, and fun. It works really, really well.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Wayne Brazinski, president of Chapter 461 in Bolingbrook, Illinois, is relatively new to the chapter camping experience. Since he took over as president a few years ago, Wayne has made efforts to grow the chapter and has increased membership from six or seven people to around 55.
He sees camping together at Oshkosh as another way to improve his chapter, while hopefully inspiring younger generations to stay involved in aviation and EAA.
“We’re trying to get the gang back together and get the younger ones in with the older ones,” Wayne said. “That’s another reason why we picked up five or six campsites. So really we’re just trying to build the culture back.”