Volunteer Spotlight — George and Janice Wilts

“People make fun of me because I get a $318 haircut,” George said. “I have a personal barber up here.” George, EAA 37947, and Janice Wilts, EAA 1282004, may joke and be modest about why they keep coming to Oshkosh. But their contributions as EAA volunteers are no joke. They have worked in a variety of areas on the AirVenture campus: Vintage, Chapters and Homebuilding, and South Maintenance. George first came to the convention in 1974 when a friend was planning to fly a Waco biplane to Oshkosh. “I really didn’t know anything about it at that time,” he said. “So, I went home, asked permission, and packed my bags, and we flew up here in the Waco.” George has only missed one or two conventions since 1974.

Janice, who is ready for an airplane excursion at a moment’s notice, would follow him in the late ’80s. “He just pulled me in!” she said.

“Aviation is my life. I’m on my seventh airplane,” George said. In addition to building and restoring airplanes, he also helped start two EAA chapters, is a member of five EAA chapters, has flown 175 Young Eagles, and works as a flight instructor. “EAA has been very good to us,” he said.

The Wilts have become staples on the AirVenture campgrounds over the years, making new friends that span generations. Those who have been attending AirVenture since they were kids may know George as “Popcorn George,” an endearing nickname he earned by making popcorn at their campsite every night. “We’ve camped in the same spot for like 20 years and watched people’s children grow up,” he said. “Now we’re watching their grandchildren grow up. We’re still friends with the same people. It’s amazing.” Others may know George for his talent for creating airplanes on a much smaller scale. “Another one of my hobbies that I do is put a smile on someone’s face for two dollars,” he said. The Wilts’ generosity with their time and variety of talents are part of what makes AirVenture special.

But their influence as volunteers doesn’t stop at AirVenture. For George and Janice, a pilgrimage to Oshkosh once a year is simply not enough. The Wilts drive to Oshkosh from Streator, Illinois, for weeklong stretches during the year. During the fall and winter months, Janice volunteers in EAA’s Print/Mail Center, and when he’s not getting his $318 haircut, George does everything from building rivet kits for seminars to working on airplanes in the Weeks Hangar. “I was one of the 14 builders of the AirCam that was built over in Weeks Hangar,” he said. “I helped restore the B-25. I’ve done all kinds of work over there, [including] working on the Tri-Motor over the years.”

As for advice for future volunteers, George and Janice are eager to share that EAA needs all kinds of people for the behind-the-scenes work that goes into AirVenture. “Everybody can do something,” George said. Janice added, “Whether it’s painting or cleaning or just whatever. There are jobs out there for everybody.”

Volunteers make EAA AirVenture Oshkosh — and just about everything else EAA does — possible. This space in EAA Sport Aviation is dedicated to thanking and shining the spotlight on volunteers from the community. Sadly, it cannot capture all of the thousands of volunteers who give so much to the community every year. So, next time you see a volunteer at AirVenture or elsewhere, however they are pitching in to make EAA better, be sure to thank them for it. It’s the least we can do. Do you know a volunteer you’d like to nominate for Volunteer Spotlight? Visit EAA.org/Submissions.

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