Monday, January 28, 2008

The first Oshkosh BBQ update of 2008

I've been trying to figure out whether we should attempt to put on the RV BBQ at Oshkosh this year. It's usually been the highlight of my year and I would expect it to be this year as well, but the growing size of it presents a tremendous challenge, and, frankly, is a little scary. I realize it's only almost-February, but usually my work begins in April and it's a mad dash right up until July to pull it off. Last year, Stein Bruch at SteinAir put the bite on some of his suppliers to come up with donations to help pull it off. And Stein, because he's Stein, chipped in with that big event BBQ.

As a result, we were able to rent a tent, buy extra campsites, and our extra expenses were covered, allowing us to put on an all-you-can-eat and an all-you-can-drink event and keep the price far lower than cost. We had a few bucks (a couple thousand, I think) left over, a lot of which we've donated to memorials to fallen RVers, and we've rebated some BBQ expenses for attendees.

The BBQ has gotten very big -- about 500 people -- and the initial outlay of cash is daunting. That's why the sponsorship money has become important. Sure we can do without sponsors, but only if I gamble about $4,000 of my own money for expenses and hope that individuals donate enough to help us break even. Up until last year, that never happened. I ended up subsidizing the event. But I'm concerned about the effect of the economy on things. I completely understand if people are playing it close to the vest.

I'm sensitive also to those who don't want the BBQ to be a commercial affair. I totally agree and I think we ended up with a happy medium last year, especially since we limited the sponsorships to RV-related folks.

We lost Darwin Barrie, the co-organizer, a few weeks ago. So here's a list of what I'm currently considering:

1. We need businesses to donate cash. I don't do this part well. I don't ask for money. So all I can say is if you're a business and you'd like to contribute, knowing that the only thing you get is some slob standing on the back of a pickup truck as the sun sets at Oshkosh saying "thank you," then we'll be happy to take your money. We'll also add your name to the T-shirt. But if there's not enough of you, we probably won't be able to.

2. We need volunteers. I assume my pal, Howard Kaney, will help be the official brat cook of Oshkosh. But we'll need someone to flip burgers. We'll need about 10 people to staff the chow line, someone to patrol the grounds, hand out buns, hand out beer and soft drinks.

3. We'll need a person to donate hours and a truck on Tuesday at Oshkosh. I tried to fit all the beer from Sam's Club in Appleton in my wife's car. I did it. But it wasn't easy.

4. I'd like to drop the ticket price to $7 (it slides up to $10 if you wait until July to register) this year with the provision that kids under 16 eat free. Parents of kids paid a lot of money last year, and we'll rebate their cost. Some of these checks were already written, others will just have it taken off the this year's.

5. We'd like a bigger tent. It's going to thunderstorm again, just as it seems to every year. We need to fit people under the tent until it passes. This (and the campsites) is the bulk of our costs -- about $2,000 for the week. I also have to replace a canopy that was ruined in last year's storm and had to be thrown away.

6. We need a cleanup crew for the next morning. I usually work well into the early morning to make things presentable, but there's a lot of stuff to do the next morning, including cleaning an incredibly grease-filled event grill.

7. Darwin handled the bulk of the work on door prizes last year. I'm inclined to let this function pass into history.

So that's it at this point. I'd be curious for your reaction. Use the comments below. If you've attended the past years, please let us know what we can do better, and we can certainly try to incorporate it into the event.


  1. Perhaps you could share the load and risk by combining your event with Van's banquet. Reserve the theater in the woods area for the evening, etc. No idea if this is logistically or politically realistic...just a thought.

  2. That suggestion has come up in the past, including -- from what I hear -- from Van's. There's a couple of problems with this. First, the 'vibe' of the two events is different. At the Van's dinner, you sit at picnic tables and listen to speeches, not much of a chance to mix, and the focus is on the company. Out in Camp Scholler, the "vibe" is just friends hanging out. In fact, the event being in the campground is a very important part of that feeling. It's an important distinction and (2) Van's, despite invitations, has never attended the BBQ and (3) Van's charges something like $20 a pop and they cap at about 200.

  3. Bob, Last year was my first BBQ and volunteering. I would suggest that you let the volunteers do more of the work. Your role should be less of the worker bee and more of just making sure things go smoothly. The BBQ was great! Take some load off of yourself and let others help. This is not a criticism, but I thought you should enjoy both the event and OSH more.