EAA AirVenture 2015 kicked off on Monday, highlighted by a performance from country music star Dierks Bentley, which concluded a day packed full of captivating air shows and demonstrations. The festivities began in the early afternoon with tremendous displays put on by stunt pilots and continued up until the much-anticipated concert.
Plane enthusiasts and country fans alike were drawn to Oshkosh on Monday. However, the proportions of plane enthusiasts to Dierks Bentley fans may surprise you. While the crowds did begin to swell inside Boeing Plaza as the time crept closer and closer to 7 p.m. and the start of the concert, there were those in the crowd who were just there for the atmosphere.
“I didn’t even know who was playing to be honest,” says Tom Willet, a native of Fort Worth, Texas. “The rest of my family is back at the camper. I came out to enjoy the atmosphere, mainly,” he says, chuckling.
For Willet, the two-day trip his family takes nearly every year to be at AirVenture in Oshkosh is more about the aeronautics than anything else.
Also in the crowd was Jon Dickson, a native of southern Illinois and AirVenture veteran.
“I’ll go to a little of all of it,” says Dickson. “I’m mostly here for the airplanes. We’ve been coming to EAA off and on for the last 30 years. I travel about 11 hours … out of those 30 years, we’ve probably been coming to EAA about 80 percent of the time. I always come up with some other family member … I’ve got my son with me this year.”
Both men agreed that while they’d enjoy the concert, what really draws them to Oshkosh year in and year out is the airplanes.
That is a statement in and of itself, seeing as Dierks Bentley isn’t just any old stage performer. The country artist has been nominated for a Grammy 11 times and has won various awards at the CMA’s, most recently for the music video of his latest hit, “Drunk on a Plane.”
While Monday night’s concert certainly did draw many thousands to the AirVenture grounds in Oshkosh, the prevailing theme amongst those that spend the entire week in a camper or tent is a love of airplanes. That passion is what keeps them coming back year after year.
For families like the Dicksons and the Willets, concert performers at AirVenture are of no particular consequence and won’t encourage or discourage their respective journeys to Oshkosh every summer. That job is left to the pilots and spectacular displays they put on for EAA’s large crowds.