Visitors, economic impact make EAA AirVenture 2014 a success

OSHKOSH – EAA officials proclaim this year’s AirVenture a high-flying success.

“This year was just magic. It was an incredible gathering of airplanes, people, events, and activities that worked well,” said Dick Knapinski, EAA spokesman.

More than half a million people pass through the AirVenture gates each year.

Those visitors leave behind a huge economic impact for the state of Wisconsin and the Oshkosh area.

If you’re a pilot, chances are you’ve heard of the city of Oshkosh and you know a lot about EAA.

“For many it’s the mecca. It’s the place they want to be where they know all of aviation comes together and celebrates the world of flight,” Knapinski said.

Aviation enthusiasts from around the world spend time and a lot of money during the weeklong event.

“A few years ago University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh did an independent study on the economic impact of AirVenture,” Knapinski said.

The study found AirVenture generates $110 million each year for the state.

“To put that into comparison, when the PGA Golf Tournament comes to Kohler every four or five years, or so, it brings about $75 to $80 million of economic impact to the state,” Knapinski said.

Knapinski says more than 70 percent of visitors to the fly-in come from outside the state.

Tourists aren’t just spending their money on the grounds.

“It costs $40 a night with electric for a camper,” said Sara Schiefelbein.

Every year Schiefelbine lets 25 campers park on her front lawn.

“We wouldn’t have it any other way. We love all these people,” Schiefelbein said.

Just a few miles away vendors sell hats, shirts, and jewelry with the hopes cashing in.

“We’re best known for our t-shirts. They’re the blackbird line of t-shirts. All the artwork that you see is hand done. It’s called stippling,” said Lain Pierson.

Lain Pierson’s been selling at AirVenture for more than two decades.

“We do well. Sales are always good,” Pierson said.

But not everyone can say the same.

“This year was not quite as good as we had hoped…not as good as last year and not as good as the year before,” said Richard Takacs.

Takacs sells aviation and military collectables and says he’s still not sure if he’ll be back next year.

“I think we’ll have to look at the numbers and come to some conclusions,” Takacs said.

Despite Takacs’ lack of sales, EAA AirVenture is still a popular place with more than 10,000 planes flying into the area for the event.

This year’s AirVenture brought in visitors from more than 60 countries.

EAA officials say they feel attendance was up over last year, but final numbers won’t in be for a couple weeks.

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