Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Fly-In Hall of Fame, Part 2

We thought of a few more.  Here they are.  If you missed Part 1, be sure to check it out.

Unexpected Charges for Auto Parking - The first year our friend Ken Bittner showed up we were like, "Who is this guy?"  If you don't know him and his wife Terri, they are wonderful people.  They used to do the 50/50 at the event.  Ken wore the board and they both wore beanie hats with propellers on top.  Walking around they encouraged you to play the 50/50.  And, they did this after driving all day to get here.  Anyway, that first year Ken wanted to help out so we asked him if he could help park cars.  Later that day he bounds up with a big smile and a wad of money.  He had collected auto parking fees - fees we never charged.  What can you do but laugh?  Even funnier, he had later realized the mistake and had no idea how to find the people he had "shaken down."  We still have no idea how he decided what to charge.

Marking Aircraft Parking - All those years Mike Korff helped us lay out the aircraft parking lines.  Each year we'd refer to a diagram, use a 200' measuring tape, and mark off each of the nearly fifty reference points.   From there we would set out cones and either paint lines between them or mow the area short.  If things were going well, we could start at 8am and be done around sunset.  Trying to figure out a better way, someone came up with the idea of steel pegs in the ground at all the reference points.  We'd use a metal detector to find them.  The next year that's what he and I did.  A large nail, a washer, and a square piece of plastic went in the ground.  We then painted the whole deal neon orange.  From that point on we'd find the first three pegs much easier and, using them for reference, could walk to the next, set down the metal detector, and it would go off.  Yet, despite this improvement, one or both of us would fall to the ground, scrape around looking for the spike, getting more hopeful with each flake of orange paint discovered, and each time we'd find a spike it was like Christmas.  A big "HEY HEEYYYY" could be heard before the following word, "NEXT."

The 50/50 Stearman Flight - One year our friend Jim Jarvis won the 50/50 drawing. If you've never met Jim your missing out - great guy. Anyway, Jim wins the drawing (no small change), walks over to Cliff Robinson who was here giving rides in his 450 Stearman, and gives him his winnings to purchase a ride for Jackie Apted.  Jackie is one of our long time volunteers and she's wonderful.  A real joy to be around.  That day, instead of taking home found money, Jim gave Jackie a gift she'll never forget. I'll never forget the smile on her face.

The Kid Makes the Fly-In - The year Amy G. finally made the fly-in.  Having attempted the journey one or twice before, this time she was hell bent on success.  Heavily invested in the Champs vs Cubs competition, nothing was going to stand in her way, not even her boyfriend who was flying an American Champion product (Sorry Jody, you're Amy G's boyfriend.  Get used to it.)  Determined to cancel each others entry, together they forged ahead making it just before dark on Saturday night.  The next morning they stood by the competition sign, said goodbye to us, and started the long flight home. There is probably no more than a handful of pilots in the U.S. who would have come all that way in a Cub, knowing they would do no more than eat, sit by a fire, and go home the next morning, just to be loyal to a promise she would make it. Impressive. Of course, Jody didn't have a choice. 

Military Food Tent Attempts to Take Lives, then Rescues - Years ago we had an old military tent we put up as the food tent.  That damn thing was so heavy, while trying to erect it five people were injured, one was mentally traumatized, and another got a hernia laughing about the process.  Somehow surviving the battle, those of us involved went about enjoying the fly-in and thought no more of it until Saturday morning arrived.  That night we had four or five inches of rain and many of our friends had their tents flooded.  When it came time to eat breakfast some were surprised to find the refugees camped out in the food tent.

Cajun Avgas - Ginger and I used to make 87 bean chili for the fly-in. Hell it was some crazy number of beans, don't question the number, just assume I'm telling you the truth and that it will be more the next time I tell it.  To cook that stuff we used two seven gallon pots and made so much we had to start cooking it a day early.  All through the night we'd trade off shifts of getting up to check it.  Many people enjoyed the chili but they were always curious why we looked so exhausted.  We called it Cajun Avgas.

Intimate with Rodents - Our friend Matt Warner used to come to the fly-in with our friend Glenn. Back when he still got shore passes, he was one of our favorite visitors.  He was always smiling, laughing with us at Glenn, and generally being one of the gang.  The only difference was that Glenn could only sleep in a bed and Matt would camp.  One night it came a big rain and Matt's tent flooded.  Seeking refuge in our shop, he found a roll of foam, unrolled it, and slept there.  The next day he woke up staring at dead mice.  They had built a home in the foam and he had taken it with force. At the time it was hilarious but we think his wife thought we were serious when we told her he had slept with some mousey little girl.

American Hot Air Campers - One year a new group, The American Air Campers, contacted us about sponsoring the event.  They were very energetic about playing a part, had some wonderful materials, flashy videos about camping with your plane, a heart felt story, the whole bit. When the fly-in rolled around, they arrived, did a lot of back-slapping friend making, tied down their plane, got in a rental car, and went to a hotel.

Clothes Pins - Fritz was a unique character.  He was from the generation that never let anything go. If it could be reused he kept it.  And, if he could order a couple more cases he would.  After he passed away, his habits left us looking for ways to use many of the oddball items.  One of them, clothespins, found a memorable spot at the fly-in.  Ginger and Mayor Maggie took the 4178 clothespins, (it was some crazy number, just assume I'm telling the truth and that it will get bigger the next time I tell it) and used them as a way to know who had purchased dinner. That year, new arrivals wondered aloud why all the people had clothespins hanging off them.  Some were on hats, others on collars, a few on belts, one showed up on a nipple, and more.  It was such a small item yet incredibly memorable.

Four Wheeling Skybolt - I'm not actually sure if it was a Skybolt of Starduster, but one year during the fly-in, when arrivals were hot and heavy,  one of these homebuilt biplanes landed.  Listening carefully to what our controller was telling him, but probably a little excited, he turned early.  That turn took him over the bank by the runway.  Without missing a beat and without damaging the plane, he went over, bounced down the bank, taxied out the bottom, and to park like he meant to do it.

Guy Wants Shirt Refund - Last year we had a guy who bought the t-shirt that allowed him to get in free and when he got here he wanted a refund on his shirt.  Pilots, always looking for an angle. 

See Rule #1 - A few bad apples can really sour the cider.  One year, after I had met one too many rotten ones, Ginger asked if there was anything I thought we needed on the list of rules for the event.  I jokingly said, "No assholes allowed.  Yeah, make that number one."  On the day of the fly-in a few people asked me if rule #1 was mine?  Ginger had actually put, "No A-holes Allowed" as the number one rule.  Every year after that, and whenever it fit, we simply said, "See Rule #1."  It has become one of our trademarks and I was even honored to receive a shirt that has it on the back.

Who Flies the 150? - One year, for ease of parking, we began placing all the light tailwheels on the east side of the runway and tricycles on the west.  This left one married couple with a dilemma.  Having a Cessna 150, and a small tailwheel, they struggled with the question of who would get to fly the tailwheel to the fly-in and get the good parking.

Bus to the Bar - One of our friends used to always get a bus to take everyone into town on Friday night.  Back before the event grew to such great size this was a workable option for the dinner.  Then came the year we went to Shipley's afterwards.  The place is, I believe, the longest continually operating bar in Indiana.  Rolling up to the curb it didn't occur to us why we were getting strange looks.  On the side of the machine was the name of the group it belonged to, a church. 

WTF - Ginger could never keep the name of the fly-in straight.  Saying WTF in her head, then rearranging it, is how she would remember it.  As a joke, when hashtags were big, she said we should have WTF (Wood, Tailwheels, and Fabric) as our hashtag.  After saying it we laughed out loud, thought about it, then said why not.  Thankfully, most people had fun with it and we began to see it talked about in many places.  Then we got a nasty phone call from someone who said they'd never be back because the name wasn't family friendly.  Our response?  WTF?

Sending the Right Message - We've never been people who hold back. Neither of us care for political correctness or its followers.  As for government we feel pretty much the same.  And, for that matter, whatever is on our mind typically gets verbalized.  Ginger has a shirt that says, "Its my runway so you can kiss my grass."  One year we sold shirts with the image of a little cherub peeing on the bold letters "TSA."  And then there was the year I put signs on the port-o-lets that read "Send a Message to Washington, Step Inside."  We actually had people who were upset about that.  WTF?


Cathy Babis said...

I LOVED reading this post! I'm a bit sad that this is the last year for this event and the first one I'll attend.

Terry Ridgeway said...

Whaaaaaaat ? The LAST YEAR ?? What's up ?? I had NOT read this !! Rich , say it isn't so !!!

Rich Davidson said...

Terry, I discussed some of the reasons a week or two ago with a previous blog post. If you can find it it may help you understand. But yes, it is the last fly-in. Next year we are going to start hosting the Sinful Sundays again.