Around the Airport

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ginger Resigns From Event Planner Position


 I have resigned my position as event planner at Lee Bottom Flying Field.  
As a marketing professional, you know you’ve been effective when you see others replicating your slogans, sayings, advertising, and pretty much everything you do.   They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, but frankly, I’ve grown tired of it. Yes, it is nice to know my efforts have inspired others to do better.  But now that we’re here, I’ve decided to gracefully bow out of this race to look for greener pastures.  The next direction for grass runway airports is about to launch.  And so it begins; the effort to once again set our airport apart as that special place everyone loves to enjoy.
Some of you are probably thinking, “What marketing?  Huh?  We don’t see your airport’s flyers on event boards at our airport.   What are you talking about?”  And, to that, I say “exactly”.  There is more to marketing than putting up flyers.
You may not realize it but we work full-time on marketing the airport and events.  If you doubt that because you haven’t seen Lee Bottom advertisements or flyers posted everywhere or lying on every table at every other event you go to, ask yourself “Why is their fly-in and airport so popular?”  I’ll tell you why.  It’s a FULL TIME JOB and we are available as consultants if you want to make your brand known and take advantage of our knowledge.
As for the events, I started helping with the fly in during 2001 when the entire thing lasted a few hours on a Saturday afternoon.  Back then it only included lunch, and the day we reached 100 planes we thought we had hit a milestone.  During these early years, it took a month to brown the meat for the big pots of chili we stayed up all night simmering.  There were no port a pots, no tents, no special t shirts, and no auto parking section.  We didn’t have showers nor did we have hot water for the public restroom.  There were no overnight campers and 2 picnic tables sufficed for everyone.  The restroom facility was a dirty, filthy mess filled with spiders and lady bugs.  Signs were made the morning of the event with markers and poster board, there was one event vehicle, and we did not spend the week prior laying down parking lines.  Furthermore, the aircraft parking area was only 10 acres instead of the 40 acres available today.  We had no special operating procedures for arrivals nor did we have coffee for those that arrived early.  There was no website, no logo, no special Lee Bottom attire, and your ticket for lunch was a clothespin which had been scavenged from the many thousands Fritz had purchased throughout the years for some unknown reason.  Rich’s old room mate flew over the night before and used the weed whacker on the tall grass around the shelter building so visitors could find the picnic tables.  Green moss grew on the siding of all the buildings, which also needed painted, and there were no flowers or plants growing anywhere - actually there were tall weeds everywhere.  Mayor Maggie and Sir Cory were the only volunteers and neither of them was old enough to legally drive.   Myself, I even had time to fly during the day of the event. 
As this atmosphere became more and more popular, we struggled with ways to keep it going.  But as the years wore on, our old friends stopped coming.  My only guess is that they thought we had money and should be entertaining them for free.  Instead, they were replaced with new friends who longed for a place like this. Yet, at some point, it became apparent something had changed.
With new friends came those that didn’t understand.  They had never met Fritz, didn’t know the history of the airport, nor did they seem to care.  We had some pretty contentious arguments with people who wanted to cross the runway while planes were landing while others couldn’t seem to grasp that the only way we could continue to host these growing events was to charge for attendance.  And still others didn’t follow the very few simple rules thus placing the event and airport’s existence in jeopardy for their own self fulfillment.  Despite these issues though, I have to say the majority of attendees were, and are, really awesome and they rapidly became members of our new airport family.
In the past 12 years, the airport has seen its share of weather phenomena.  We’ve had a blizzard that collapsed a hangar and crushed planes, a certified Midwest hurricane that took out the electricity for a week prior to the September fly-in, an ice storm that left us without power during the cold winter months, droughts that killed the grass, torrential downpours that washed away thousands of pounds of newly sown grass seed, all time record setting rain storms that caused all of the aircraft parking areas on the field to be mud which resulted in a cancelled event, and the river has flooded into our auto parking areas.  But, this year’s smiting was the worse and it has taken a toll on us:  The Tornado of March 2, 2012. 
During all those years, with one exception, events have gone on despite weather phenomena, broken bones, and family emergencies.  We have rescheduled surgeries, attended events in pain, missed weddings and funerals.  Vacations have been postponed and missed all together to make sure that events can be held.  Our home needed remodeling but it always took a backseat to the welfare of the airport and the events. 
If you could have seen the inside of the buildings when I arrived for the first time in May 2001, you’d understand.  Fritz had not been gone long and Rich was struggling to do it all himself.  You can not believe the disarray of papers, clutter, and utter mess.  It was barely suitable for human life.  Slowly though, things were cleaned, painted, washed, and organized.  In 2001, the tools, equipment, and associated hardware were all laying in the middle of the shop floor.   You couldn’t find the top of a 30’ work bench if your life depended on it.  Things were picked up, put into piles of similarity, and eventually into labeled boxes. 
The costs for maintenance were evaluated and savings made wherever possible.  Fuel purchased in bulk at the right times, utility bills combined and re-evaluated, heating and cooling issues were addressed, winterization of plumbing and pipes were changed to make them simpler and more effective, and we operated under-insured for property damage.  Yet, we kept the runway expansion going despite problems at every turn.  Everything was for the airport so that people would have a great place to fly.  And now as it turns out, all the cleaning and organizing of the equipment, tools, and such was futile because it is currently worse than it was the first day I arrived.  Thanks to the tornado, if our lives depended up on it, it would be difficult to find or get to a screwdriver.
Maybe I should get back to the events; otherwise I could go on for days about the time spent managing the airport that is allocated to meetings, phone calls, letters, and emails sent to people to help our cause.
Last year, we had 3 people who stepped up and helped us coordinate some areas of the fly in throughout the year.  Thinking that we could continue this technique and keep the events going, we enlisted the help of others.  The help that we were looking for was that of event planning and implementation.   The first meeting was very successful with over 30 in attendance.  The 2nd meeting however produced 6 attendees plus us.  It was held just days after a tornado hit our home.
Not being ones to give up, instead of rebuilding our lives, both of us spent an entire Tuesday planning for the meeting.  When we arrived to six people, we felt abandoned.  We have a rule that everything for the fly in needs to be planned by May 1 so we can spend the rest of the summer implementing the plan.  At this point, we were only weeks away from this deadline and the event facilities were gone or in shambles, most of our equipment was damaged by wind or water and our help had disappeared.  Were we really the only ones who cared if aviation stayed alive for others to enjoy?  What?  You thought we did these events and provided the airport for our own personal enjoyment and enrichment?  That’s about as silly as the person who thought we were going to get rich off of FEMA payments after the tornado.
Hoping that most would take the initiative and see what needs to be done, we asked individuals at the meeting to prepare a document on what they planned to do for their respective areas of responsibility.  That simple task would save us some critical spare time.  Yet, only 2 people followed through on this assignment.  Again, we saw the trend.
But this isn’t meant to blame the people who had the courage to step up and offer to help.  They went one step further than many others.  Far too many people are eager to sit in the background and tell you how to do things but very few actually rise to the challenge of doing them.
When it comes to money, the event is financially draining.  There is an old saying that goes “He who spends freely has many friends”.  Unfortunately we aren’t into buying friends.  We’re into helping aviation but the reality is that putting on these events in addition to operating the airport is financially draining.  Here are the generalized, annual, rounded figures which have been going up at break-necking speeds:
Airport operation expenses          $30,000
Event expenses                         $30,000
Grand total                               $60,000
We were recently told by a helpful soul that we should hire an event planner.  Well, that sounds good in theory but it would cost an additional $30,000 minimum and that was already being done successfully, and for free, by me.  Additionally, a committee of assistants would still be needed.  Furthermore, most airport managers make around $50,000.  This too is something I have been doing as a volunteer.  If you’re mad at me for making this decision or you think I’m ungrateful, think again.  I hope that you can see that I have been doing my part.  All I wanted was for others to be involved and committed to helping me. 
2011 left us with 2 additional debts to pay off:
1)  Fly in weather was average and left us with a $7000 bill;
2)  The runway received an extensive fall maintenance program because of the effects of the past 3 years weather phenomena’s causing the expenditure to be twice the normal amount with an additional $8000 going to a special herbicide treatment, fertilizer, and overseeding program. 
Although we do get contributions from the calendar mailings, this funding typically covers the calendars themselves and the current year grass maintenance fund, with us footing the additional $15,000 in operational expenses (we understand that is our choice).  The events also bring in some revenue but have yet to cover the expenses as can be seen by the bill we are still trying to pay for 2011.  Therefore, although we have managed to pay down some of the debt from last year, we have additional expenses for this one that are currently mounting.
Having recently watched the movie ‘Courageous’, there was a line from this movie that made me realize that what I am doing is not important in the grand scheme of life. “You can't fall asleep at the wheel only to wake up one day and realize that your job or hobbies have no eternal value”.   The tornado and the events surrounding it have made me realize that I was ‘asleep at the wheel’ and there are things I could be doing which would provide eternal value.  I’m sorry that planning events for the airport, at least how they are currently held, is not one of them.  If it were, more people would be here and committed to making it happen.

Ginger

3 comments:

Terry Bowden said...

Ginger,
I can understand your position completely and applaud for your honesty and genuineness in sharing this decision. I very much appreciate your reference to the line from the movie, 'Courageous". It sure sounds like a tough dilemma that you have struggled over. But in the grand scheme, I agree with your motives.
I have never had the opportunity to attend any events at Lee Bottom. But I have observed from afar the grandeur it has become. It reminds me of the success and growth of the 14 fly-ins hosted by my own father and mother in past decades. By the end of those years, the fly-in's had grown completely out of hand... way beyond what Mom and Dad could do themselves. They too starved for helpers.
But take stock in this... When you put your heart and soul into something, people are drawn by your servanthood and your giving spirit. THATS what makes the difference. There is no doubt you have made a difference to people.
I hope that your new direction will provide you opportunities to continue making a difference to people. Perhaps (when you look at it in this way), maybe there is some eternal value in your past efforts. The servant rarely "feels" or "reaps" the rewards for his/her efforts (on earth). But they do what they do on the faith that their efforts are blessing others (and an investment in their own Heavenly crown). God's love and God's joy depends on servants who go out and make it their goal to bless others.
So.. Thank you Ginger for your efforts and for blessing people. And don't sell yourself short or agonize over whether it was worthwhile. Believe me, people have been blessed by you. And that's what makes them come back for more.

God bless you.

Anonymous said...

Well said Ginger.

Jed Keck

Charlie said...

Ginger,

I was Chairman of the Cincinnati Lunken Air Show in 2000/2001/2003 after being Treasurer in 1998/99. You'll notice that I skipped the 2002 show which was a necessary, but unpopular decision. When I decided to answer the call in 2003, I threw what was one of the most spectacular air shows Cincinnati has ever witnessed, but the crowds still did not come.

I had a great bunch of volunteers, but as you know, most of them did not understand that it was a 24/7/365 effort. Everybody wanted to come to a few meetings prior to show time (some of them just to be important enough to merit a golf cart). In the one week prior, it was hard to get even 50% participation in the daily meetings and the day after the show, they were all gone. Just a handful stuck around for the clean up. I helped in the 2004 and last show, but mostly as a consultant with co-chair title. We lost a bunch of money on that one because the people we hired to manage the PR and Fundraising bailed out and left us hanging.

I like you and Rich and what you spend so much time doing. I've always promoted your show on my web sites and Facebook. I'm no spring chicken any more and I don't feel my skills could help you mostly because of my not having the time to come down even three times a week which I would love to do, but for my museum here at Lunken Airport.

I think a museum is part of your plan and I can still help you in that respect helping you find things for display. I'm starting to find things by accident that it used to take me years of searching.

Keep the spirit and look after yourselves first. I'll see you both again soon.

Charlie Pyles
K62 Airport Board
Cincinnati Aviation Heritage Society & Museum www.cahslunken.org