Hits: 2027

I wasn’t sure what to expect from SNF. I envisioned something like a smaller Oshkosh, but while I found some similarities there were many differences.

Oshkosh is huge, overflowing with aircraft, and if you want a decent spot you need to get there early - many people arrive a day or two before the show officially opens, but you certainly don’t want to arrive later than the morning of the first day. Fly-in attendees start leaving as early as the end of the first day (keep in mind that they may have already been there three days by that time), and the number of attendees on site decreases steadily as the week progresses.

At SNF, it seems that there is a steady stream of fly-in attendees arriving and departing through the week. There is no need to rush to get there early, and there is a good number of fly-in aircraft on site any day of the show.

The food vendor story at Oshkosh is a sad one. It seems that pretty much every food facility is provided by a single vendor, and there is little variety and no competition. At SNF, there is a wide range of different vendors providing a good selection of menus.

Oshkosh is awash in water fountains. Bring a water bottle and you never have to walk too far to refill it. Fountains at SNF are extremely rare. I didn’t find my first one until half way through my second day there. I found a second on on day three, and there may very well only be the two. They don’t show up on any maps that I saw. For the record, they were between exhibit buildings 1 & 2, and between buildings 2 & 3. At SNF you had better bring a back pack with a brace of water bottles, or plan on buying lots of $2 bottles of water as the need arises.

At Oshkosh, despite the incessant moans from those who think the warbird crowd is taking over, it is clear that homebuilt aircraft are still king. Homebuilt aircraft parking is front and centre, and homebuilt aircraft camping is well located not too far from site centre.

At SNF, homebuilt aircraft parking is in the air show exclusion area, so it is only accessible in the morning. Homebuilt aircraft camping is off the edge of the map, way on the east side of the show site. The only thing that makes homebuilt camping livable at SNF is the wonderful family who volunteer to take care of the campers. It all started 26 (or 27?) years ago, when a local KR-2 builder and his wife started volunteering to take care of the campers. Their children started helping out as they grew up, and now the grand children are involved too. And one young great grand son also tries to help - four generations in all. They provide a large tent with chairs and tables, a constant supply of bottled water and cold beer (and I mean real beer!, not just Bud and Bud Light). Every night they lay on dinner of some sort for the campers. And breakfast and coffee in the morning. There is a “pay what you think it is worth” money pot that everyone stuffs with fives and tens to keep the funding in the black. Thanks Mary Jane and everyone else!

In the left side of the picture you can see the tent at the back of the homebuilt camping area. That tent is the social centre of the universe for homebuilt campers.

Homebuilt camping is way off the map, but there is an excellent tram system that connects it to the main site - you want the Red Tram, which runs from the main site right by the edge of homebuilt camping.

This year I wanted to be sure to be there at the start of Day 1 (Tuesday), as I expected things to fill up like at Oshkosh. I left on Friday morning after three days, as I had done and seen everything on my list. Next year, I won’t be in a panic to get there. I will attempt to stay over Friday night, as Friday is always the big steak dinner night at homebuilt camping. This year Friday was the weather window I needed to get home. There were huge storms in Florida on Saturday - I don’t think I would have been able to leave. And Sunday was terrible in Ottawa (low ceilings and cold temperatures, with certain ice in the clouds)- I don’t think I would have been able to get home on Sunday.