Ann and Fred Criswell at
EAA's Audrey Park campground.
There is a saying that the family that plays
together, stays together. But in Ann and Fred Criswell's case, it's the family
that volunteers together that stays together.
The Bettendorf, Iowa, couple has literally
raised their four children while volunteering at EAA AirVenture. And now their
children are doing the same thing.
Ann said the couple has done many jobs since
their love affair with EAA began in the late 1950s. In fact, they've only
missed two years of volunteering at AirVenture since the convention moved to
Oshkosh. One or both have worked in Emergency Repair, Women's Activities,
Operation Thirst, Pre-convention Thirst, Airplane Greeters, Flying Cinema,
Friendship Tent and South Maintenance, to name a few. And when their kids were
old enough, they were helping out wherever Mom and Dad were volunteering at the
In those early years, one of their favorite jobs
was putting out the "YELLOW X" on the intersection of the runways
near Flight Line Operations, Ann said. "What a thrill having the show
planes flying almost over top of us. I remember the first year the Concorde
flew overhead; the ground literally shuddered under our feet."
Their youngest daughter, Mindy, started
volunteering with her dad when she was about 8, painting rocks white for
borders around the grounds. Another daughter, Martha, spent her teen years
making sandwiches and lemonade when they started Operation Thirst in the early
1970s. "When her son Craig was born, she brought him into the Operation
Thirst building in a carrier and he would sleep under the table while his mom
was making sandwiches on top," Ann said.
Before the convention, sons Mark and Matt would
help their dad and do whatever jobs needed to be done, such as digging holes,
painting or putting up fences.
AirVenture helped to grow a love of aviation in
their children. Matt is now a pilot for Mesa Airlines, and Mark had earned many
ratings before he was killed in an airplane crash nine years ago, Ann said.
But come July, you'll likely find Matt, his
wife, Stacey, and their children Haley and Luke, as well as Mindy and her
children - Abby, Morgan and Alison - helping with Pre-convention Thirst. And
Mindy's husband, Dan, pitches in at South Maintenance to ready the grounds.
Fred is also at South Maintenance, and is known as the "Go-Fer."
"He goes to get paint, fencing, rope by the mile, batteries or whatever
else is needed," Ann said.
Although they have done many jobs at AirVenture,
Ann said the family has no favorite. "We love every bit of it knowing that
we're part of its success. We find so much joy in the friendships we have made
and look forward to what we call our family reunion each year…"