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Gene Conrad, EAA 404051, more or less grew up at Wittman Regional Airport. Gene’s dad was the former airport director at Wittman, and despite moving around the country since then, Gene has missed only one EAA fly-in convention in his life, in 1988. Currently, Gene is the airport director at Lakeland Linder International Airport in Lakeland, Florida.
However, during the week of AirVenture, you can find Gene using his airport directorial skills in a different manner — as a longtime volunteer with EAA. AirVenture 2019 was Gene’s 32nd year of volunteering, and he was serving as the air show operations ground chairman, helping coordinate aircraft movements on Boeing Plaza during each air show.
Gene’s passion for and skill within the aviation industry is undeniable, but like many longtime AirVenture volunteers, what brings him to Oshkosh each year isn’t necessarily the airplanes.
“It’s just like Paul Poberezny always said; it’s about the airplanes, but really at the end of the day we’re here for the people,” Gene said. “There’s something about coming back to this airport and being here on this specific ground out here every year. It just rejuvenates me for the year. I wouldn’t be anywhere else. I’ve always told anybody I’ve ever worked for at other airports that if I couldn’t come here, they wouldn’t allow me to, then I’m quitting. That’s just how important it is to me. My family grew up out of this event. I have a son now, and he comes here every year with me. So, this is our homecoming every year.”