OSHKOSH - "The tents are up, the exhibitors are in, the airplanes have been flying in and that all combines to we're ready for opening day," said Dick Knapinski, EAA spokesman.Keep your eyes to the sky if you plan to attend this year's EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh.EAA starts Monday making Oshkosh the premier place for pilots and aviation lovers.The week-long event is expected to bring in more than half a million people and many of those visitors keep coming back for more.A group of friends, who call themselves the Oshkosh Irrelevants, come to EAA every single year.Rick Marquardt has a jacket full of EAA patches."Out here I started coming in '72," said Marquardt.He has so many patches, he's starting to run out of room."Now I have to have them on my sleeves. I'm going to have to get some longer sleeves," Marquardt said.Marquardt and his friends enjoy looking at what's on and above the ground."I like the vintage airplanes myself and the old war planes," said Michael Dean.If you spend enough time talking to campers, you'll find out EAA is much more than just planes. The event is also about making long lasting friendships."Forty something years," questioned Bruce McIntyre."Oh yeah close to 50," said Elwyn Dukeshire.Bruce McIntyre and Elwyn Dukeshire have known each other for a very long time.The two made the 670 mile drive from Ontario, Canada, to spend the week at EAA."I've been pretty much in this spot for 21 years and with this trailer," said McIntyre.For McIntyre, who's also a pilot, the stay at EAA never gets old."Every year there's always something different that you haven't seen before like the one of a kind airplane shows," McIntyre said.For the first time ever the Air Force Thunderbirds will put on a full show."It's taken over 60 years but it's finally come around. The Thunderbirds are coming and they'll be performing August 1, 2, and 3," Knapinski said.Knapinski says the event has something for everyone."Whether to build a skill or if you just enjoy the entertainment value of aviation, it will all be here during the course of the week," Knapinski said.Knapinski says you never know who or what you might run into.Even though this year's event hasn't officially started, EAA is already looking ahead and says it hopes to have a space launch within the next five years.
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