OSHKOSH - They're the heart and soul of AirVenture. Organizers say without volunteers, the organization couldn't afford to put on the kind of fly-in it has for the past 43 years in Oshkosh.
Rita Eaves is what you would call a regular volunteer at AirVenture. After all, she's been coming here for, "Forty-five years," said the 91-year-old from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
And in that time she's seen and done just about everything, although she admits, "I care nothing about the airplanes anymore."
For Eaves, it's about the friendships.
"It's the people I have met that bring me back," she said.
It started 60 years ago with just a handful of volunteers, now an army of 4,000-5,000 form the backbone of AirVenture.
"It's important to have that volunteer force, they are the arms and legs and many times the eyes and ears and brains of the operation especially in some areas throughout the grounds," said Dick Knapinski, EAA Communications Director.
From directing planes to directing traffic, the volunteers can be found spread all over the AirVenture grounds. Many have been volunteering for years. But the occasional first-timer can still be found.
"I think it's great although I would like it if it was just a little bit cooler," said Mary Quartuccio of Waunakee.
This is also Quartuccio's first time at AirVenture. She says volunteering is the best way to experience the fly-in.
"I think volunteering is a nice way to help this community and get to know more about it," she said.
This year will mark the last AirVenture for Eaves. Her husband was killed in an airplane accident earlier this year. Eaves says she wanted to come back one last time to say goodbye. There will be other volunteers to carry on her duties and she won't go with any tears or regrets.
"They spoiled me rotten, how could you not enjoy something like that."
Knapinski says some families are already on their third generation of volunteers at the fly-in.
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