Last year was a buzzkill for all of us in so many ways, but missing OSH was a heartbreak for pilots young and old. The event was canceled at the last possible—and economically feasible—moment because of the pandemic in 2020. But July 26 through August 1, 2021, baby, it’s back! Here are some things we’re looking forward to:
Nighttime is the right time
At the end of a hot, sticky day wandering the 1,400-acre show grounds, checking out the warbird and vintage aircraft displays, shopping at the Fly Market, and attending seminars, there is nothing like kicking back with a frosty one to watch the night airshow. Wednesday and Saturday are the Night Air Show, a booming presentation of fireworks, pyrotechnics, and captivating aerobatic performances. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday at 8 p.m., the Twilight Flight Fest begins with a STOL demonstration, Red Bull skydivers, and RC aircraft demonstrations. If that’s not enough drama for you, check out the Theater in the Woods to share interesting programs such as interviews with industry greats or watch aviation-themed movies at the Fly-In Theater (there will be an emphasis on World War II movies this year).
Hangar talking by the campfire
The first time I attended AirVenture I vividly remember the lines of people at the sinks washing up and brushing their teeth before heading back to their campsites, which could be full-on six-person tents or snazzy RVs or tarps draped over the wing of their aircraft. It’s sleep-away camp for adults, I wrote in a story for AOPA Pilot lo these many, many years ago (1998). Be it the North 40 or Camp Scholler, even founder Paul Poberezny said the campfire chats with friends were his favorite part of AirVenture.
For the past 13 years, EAA has honored women aviators with special programming—including a a power lunch, talks with notable women aviators, and a special T-shirt. That special T-shirt—this year designed by regular attendee Lynn Thompson—is part of a great big photo op. This year it will be virtual, as it had to be last year, so take a selfie in your T-shirt (register online) and share.
Ardy and Ed’s Drive In
AOPA Pilot lore has it that one veteran editor (here’s looking at you, Al Marsh) planned his OSH days around his visit to Ardy and Ed’s 1950s-style drive-in where the servers wear roller skates and the milkshakes are the best in the state. Here you can try a perch sandwich, made with fresh sport fish from the lakes of Wisconsin. The deep-fried lake perch is butterflied and served with tartar sauce on a soft bun for under $6. Editor at Large Dave Hirschman says he prefers walleye sandwiches.
Fresh isn’t a word you often associate with cheese. In fact, cheese is practically one of the only things today honored for its age. But in Wisconsin, a fresh young cheddar cheese separated from the whey during the cheesemaking process results in curds so fresh they squeak when the strands of cheese protein rub against the enamel of your teeth. Really. You can easily discover this at one of the nearly 50 food stands on the AirVenture campus. For an extra special treat, try them deep-fried.
Brats aren’t the wurst
Much of Wisconsin was settled by German immigrants, so adapting the pork sausage and making it their own—by simmering the sausages in pilsner beer with butter and onions and then grilling—makes sense. You can smell bratwurst grilling throughout AirVenture and it’s a toss-up as to whether to use your calories on a brat, cheese curds, or those warm doughnuts by the IAC pavilion. Oh, just eat; you’re going to “walk yourself to death” anyway, as more than one attendee has said.
Far from the madding crowd of the main campus, the Vette/Blust seaplane base (96WI) on the western shore of Lake Winnebago is bucolic, its quiet, willow-tree-shrouded cove broken only by the energizing roar of a seaplane taking flight. Take a break, sit along the cove, watch seaplanes—and wonder why you’re not in one.
The big stuff
If you want to feel good about this country’s military might or you are intrigued by innovative new aircraft designs, the impressive display at the end of Celebration Way is always a jaw-dropper. Climb into massive combat aircraft, see new designs, and meet the pilots who fly these amazing machines in Boeing Plaza.
The Greatest Generation
It was the seventy-fifth anniversary of the end of World War II in 2020 and the events planned to commemorate the legendary aircraft of the European and Pacific theaters were set to appear…. “Plus One” is the airshow and display you wanted to see last year. From an expanded warbird presence to World War II aircraft in Boeing Plaza and a special airshow Friday and Saturday, the opportunity to celebrate this milestone takes place—just one year late.
We all have our favorites (mine are Michael Goulian and Jim Peitz) but there’s not an airshow performer who doesn’t want to entertain and thrill the audiences at OSH. The busy pathways around the AirVenture campus change when the shows start, with people grabbing their stadium chairs or plopping down on the ground or stopping to look skyward—you’ll make new friends as you run into their backs!