Photo by Randy Dufault
Operation Thirst volunteers work at making sandwiches on an assembly
line. In on the action are Barry Sherrill, Joan Hoak, Rich Gilfoil.
July 27, 2009 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin - It
has been said that an army marches on its stomach, and the army of
volunteers here at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2009 is absolutely no different.
For almost as long as this convention’s 57-year history, Operation
Thirst has done everything it can to keep that army well fed and watered.
Operating out of a non-descript building near
Homebuilt Parking, the volunteers of Operation Thirst prepare meals and
deliver them to volunteers all over the grounds, volunteers who can’t
leave their post for even a short time to go and get a sandwich. Sixteen
thousand handmade sandwiches are expected to leave the building this year,
over the course of the six days that the operation works.
Betty Ristau, a 30-year volunteer and chairman
of Operation Thirst, got involved—as many volunteers do— with a
“A friend of ours used to do this and said
why don’t you come over and help?” she said. “My husband was
building an airplane so we were coming anyway, and I just kept coming back
year after year.”
Ristau and her crew of more than 20 start
getting ready for EAA AirVenture early. Robert Hamilton, a nine-year
volunteer, and his wife, Ann, also an Operation Thirst volunteer, arrived
on the grounds 10 days ago.
“It’s been just steady workdays,” he
said. “We’ve been all over picking up meats, potato chips, and all
that sort of stuff.”
Hamilton and other volunteers will put
countless miles on the Operation Thirst vans over the grounds, making four
circuits of the grounds each day.
Part of the army Operation Thirst feeds is the
Homebuilt Parking crew. Another large group of dedicated, long-tenured
volunteers, Homebuilt Parking volunteers have the challenge of finding
places to put the exploding number of plans-built and kit-built aircraft
visiting EAA AirVenture this year.
A key challenge with parking the homebuilts is
keeping all of the types and sub-types together. Popular types like
Sonexes and Midget Mustangs are parked together, but the ubiquitous Van’s
RV series is divided even further by the particular RV model.
“That’s the ultimate goal,” said Jeannie
Schneider, co-chair for the parking crew. “We do it for as long as we
” Schneider and others on the crew use the
Internet to try and stay ahead of the challenge.
“Sometimes we are in touch with type groups
well before we get here,” Schneider said. “I’ve been in touch with a
group of 10 GlaStars for a few weeks now, letting them know details and
where they are going to park.”
Days are busy for the entire volunteer army
all through EAA AirVenture. Longtime dedicated volunteers like Hamilton
and Schneider often do not get much time to enjoy AirVenture beyond their
“I like to get to the Fly Market at least
once while I’m here,” Hamilton said, “but I don’t think I got a
chance to last year.”
“We can always use more help,” he
Volunteer opportunities are always available.
If you have some time to give during your stay at EAA AirVenture, check
with the Volunteer Center, located just west of the Federal Pavilion, to
find out how you can help.