"I can say with certainty that this was the best Airventure ever!"
That is a phrase we got on an annual basis from former EAA President Tom Poborezny and, for one year, his successor--Rod Hightower. It would usually garner some eye rolls or chuckles in the Media Tent because we all knew it was coming. And it would usually follow a week or more visitors, more planes, more corporate tents, more attractions and more entertainment than any other Airventure before. And it was usually followed by a promise to be even "bigger and better" next year. While the subsequent Airventure was always "bigger" it was never really "better".
That is, until this year's Airventure--which, as we will likely find out later this week, was not bigger--but was certainly better. For someone who has been coming to the Fly-In since the late 1970's, this year's event had something of a throwback feel to it. There was no "superstar" plane that everybody had to see and tour. There were few celebrities, no Ferris wheels or car shows, the corporate promotions and overall presence were toned down slightly and you could definitely tell that there were fewer people there all week.
And with that came a number of bonuses. Shorter lines for food and drinks, no backups to Highway 41 while trying to get into the parking lots, easier access to port-a-johns, more room to maneuver along the flightline and more time to talk to pilots, exhibitors and volunteers. Mother nature even cooperated this year by not turning Wittman Field into a blast furnace or a quagmire. We also avoided having any major incidents on the grounds in terms of flight safety.
Would it have been nice to have the military jet flyovers we've had in the past? Sure. Nothing gets people running to see what's going on than an F-14 or F-16 making an afterburner pass. And we certainly missed some of the people from the Federal agencies with whom we have shared a building the last decade. But that will all likely be back next year (unless trying to pay for everybody's every need continues to be a top priority of this administration).
When it was all done on Sunday my wife asked me if I thought it was "boring" this week. I told her "no"--because we don't need to be over-stimulated, ultra-entertained and running ourselves ragged to see everything every year. Besides, this year, the emphasis was more on the "EAA" part--and less on the "Airventure" part of the name.
New EAA Chairman Jack Pelton didn't drop the "Best Airventure Ever!" cliche in his wrap up press conference on Sunday--though he certainly should have.