I Am a SUN ‘n FUN Volunteer!

by Sharen Rieger, Retired Pilot

The daily attendance of an aviation event, such as SUN ‘n FUN, is only half of the excitement. Being on the grounds for a continuous 24 hours, over several days, is a totally amazing and unique experience!

For me, tent camping is a must! But with my aging body, I have moved from sleeping on the ground, to sleeping on a cot. Setting up my tent among the same group of Canadians and Americans is a comforting joy! Shared early morning coffee, then shared dinners with interesting stories and heartfelt laughs, are an enjoyable part of my every day.

Sunrise with two of Burt Rutan’s Long EZ design. Several eventually arrived and were parked in the same row

At SUN ‘n FUN, aircraft types are parked in their respected areas. When a pilot taxis off of the active runway, and on to a taxiway, they are marshalled to their designated area, and then to a parking spot, as indicated by a large sign on the inside window of their aircraft (to name a few, HBP means homebuilt aircraft parking as HBC means homebuilt aircraft camping, and GAP means general aviation parking which was at the far end of our homebuilt parking area). Every arriving aircraft is designated to park in the area with their type.

Two hearty southwest Ontario pilot/campers arrived in the Harmon Rocket F-1, “Little Bit,” C-FAUH.

Each day, I volunteer in the homebuilt parking area. I drive a “six-pack,” which is a six-passenger golf cart. I slowly drive the ‘six-pack’ close to a newly arrived homebuilt aircraft, which is being tied down, and I welcome them to SUN ‘n FUN. Then I offer them a ride to the registration tent, and on to a location of their choice. This could be the main campground, the Enterprise car rental location, the front main gate, or as close as I could get the golf cart to their commercial display booth.

During the whole week, 110 homebuilt aircraft were marshalled and parked in our area. No doubt, I chatted with many of them, enjoying brief descriptions of their flights. A few pilots were Floridian locals who flew in and out each day to attend the event. Some other pilots were parked for a couple of days. They usually were the ones that I drove to the car rental area or to the front main gate.

Then there were the hearty pilots that arrived with their camping gear, duffel bags plus a cooler which had been all packed into their aircraft. I would drive them to their designated camping spot in the main campground. Several days later, in the early morning, I did their pickup, and would drive them and their gear, back to their aircraft. The camping pilots that I met were organized and efficient. One morning, I arrived 15 minutes early for a 0800 pick-up, to find the group all packed and standing beside their belongings, which they had moved to the very edge of the roadway. Others were always ready before my planned arrival time.

The registration tent that I worked from contained chairs, tables, and a large upright glass door fridge filled with cases of bottled water. It was an ideal place for us volunteers to keep our own snacks. One of the volunteers, daily made a very large thermos of delicious lemonade to share. A delivered sandwich lunch was provided for volunteers near noon each day. Even though our volunteers were constantly busy, they were considerably friendly and very helpful. A few of the volunteers arrived before the event to set up our area and to chalk off the parking rows. During the event, some volunteers handled registration and computer entries. Many others were responsible for marshalling the homebuilts to one of the many parking rows on either side of a busy taxiway. Several different aircraft were required to use that same taxiway, so I found it very exciting to be observing a variety of aircraft at a close range, that is, when I wasn’t busy welcoming and driving pilots.

            The movement of all aircraft on the field was required to stop at 1330, as it was the start of the daily 3-plus hour air show. This was a welcoming rest for us volunteers during the heat of the Floridian day. Aircraft movement began again after the airs how, until 2000 when the active runway was closed. Art: BNP 0622 SNF Expeditor.jpg Camping: Saturday night air show at SUN ‘n FUN ended with a massive fireworks display. 

Here are two people observing the fireworks while sitting beside the R.C.A.F. Beechcraft Expeditor C-FTLU

Only a few homebuilt aircraft taxied out for home. Most were parked for another night.

If you are interested in giving back to the aviation community, consider volunteering. Check online for a particular aviation event that interests you. There always appears to be a call for volunteers. If not listed, then contact the organizers. Volunteering is an enjoyable way to meet other aviation-minded people, plus it enhances your experience at any aviation event.

You can also see me volunteering at AirVenture Oshkosh in the Canadian EAA large tent, and also at the UPAC Convention in August. Come on out and offer to be a volunteer too!

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