By Robbie Culver
For thousands of attendees each year at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, staying in Camp Scholler is part of the rich experience that reminds us why we return every summer. The experience can range from rustic to luxurious, depending on the facilities used to camp, but one thing is a constant — the awesome people you meet.
It’s hard to meet a stranger in Camp Scholler. At best, the person you say hello to is just a new friend you’re just getting to know, all here for the same reason — the all-encompassing aviation experience that is AirVenture! What you see, what you feel, and who you share it with tends to write itself to flash memory for later recall, specifically when the flying season wanes and you wonder if you can ever see the world from above again.
Morning wakeups are typically begun with three or four P-51s passing in formation over the campground just after 6 a.m., the unmistakable sound of Merlin engines ripping apart the still morning air. As the campground wakes up, tent flaps and camper doors open, and attendees stream out for breakfast, a shower, and for many a badly needed cup of coffee.
There is a palpable buzz in Camp Scholler. The excitement of AirVenture starts to permeate every moment. When you see someone looking up and pointing at what is flying over, you can’t help but look up too. A large group gathered for one purpose tends to focus the collective energy — and in this case, that would be the sky and what is flying through it.
Following the afternoon air show, the crowd begins to trickle back from show grounds and inevitably the evening festivities begin. It is possible there may be adult beverages involved for some, maybe. But as a general rule, the crowds are polite, well mannered (passing one another all but requires saying “Hi” or “How are you?”), and respectful of the shared experience.
If a problem pops up, you’ll find new friends suddenly stepping up to help with whatever went wrong. The camaraderie of AirVenture is hard to beat, and each year feels like a large family reunion. Social media makes this even more prevalent, as new friends share memories with classic friends alike throughout the year.
As I sat in Chapter 461’s camping area on Thursday night, July 28, we were treated to an especially treasured shared experience. As the sunset faded and the stars came out, we began to see satellites and shooting stars in the night sky. But it was a high, bright pass of the International Space Station that took our breath away. It appeared in the northwest sky over the trees, and passed almost directly overhead, shining bright — almost blue in its vibrancy. As it passed to the southeast and faded away, the group was literally cheering — another shared memory in Camp Scholler, another treasured Oshkosh moment locked away for recall.