Little Known Fact: The Clinton 2003 Fly-In almost didn't happen. When Lori and I returned to California from the Clinton 2002 fly-in we were both exhausted and broke. We spent almost the entire month of July in Clinton, and spared no expense to make the the 2002 Fly-in as good as it could possibly be. More employees? More Vehicles? Fancy food at the Banquet? Bring it On!
With 20/20 hindsight, we tried to do to much too soon. The turnout was quite good in 2002, but when it came time to pay the bills we realized that we had spent nearly triple what we had budgeted for. Among other things, we mailed out over 7,000 personal invitations to the fly-in to every C150-152 owner in Iowa and the six surrounding states. We figured that worse case scenario, about 5% of the folks who were invited might come, that would be approximately 350 airplanes! The real turnout was much more modest, 79 airplanes. Though we had a great time, in the end it just didn't make sense from a financial standpoint.
In spite of our disappointment and stress at the outcome, we continued to receive all sorts of favorable feedback from people who came. Wayne Westerman's comment was a good example, "I had such a good time that I'm going back to Clinton in 2003, even if you guys don't sponsor it!"
At first we thought, "No Way we're doing that again!" but gradually we began to feel the familiar tug on the heart strings of the Clinton Fly-In. Finally, we decided to move forward with Clinton 2003, but purely on the basis of the most minimal expense possible.For starters, we abandoned the idea of personally inviting all the C150-152 owners in a 7 state area, and instead relied purely the club newsletter and website to get the word out. Lori formerly traveled to Clinton by airline, and we stayed 3 weeks in motels, this time we would both arrive 2 days before the fly-in by Cessna. We had previously spent hundreds of dollars shipping fly-in necessities to Iowa and back. This time we decided to bring our Cardinal instead of the 150, and bring everything we needed with us.
(It turned out to be 350lbs of stuff.)
At both previous Clinton fly-ins we employed professional air to air photographers, but this time we would make do with whatever was on hand. Luckily, club member Dana Patton turned out to have a knack for air to air photography.
Fortunately for us, Stephen & Tom Mayotte were willing once again to take on the overwhelming task of setting up parking and running the contests, and we were able to enlist the help of Dennis & Phyllis Raddant to run registration instead of having to hire workers from the local temp agency.
Cutting back like this turned out to save literally thousands of dollars. No surprise though, the turnout was our lowest ever, just 44 airplanes. So, in spite of our tight budget, the low turnout caused a financial shortfall. This resulted in a pretty laid back atmosphere. Lori and I adopted a very relaxed attitude because we knew there was a pretty good chance that no matter how it turned out, this would probably be the last Clinton fly-in. Our attitude and the smaller group of participants made the 2003 fly-in seem more intimate, less rushed, and friendlier than ever. For example, when the winds picked up on Saturday afternoon, only five pilots elected to fly in the landing contests (eleven planes flew in the morning session.) At every other Clinton fly-in there are lots of logistics getting at least a couple dozen airplanes through the contests before the banquet. By comparison, it was pretty relaxed and entertaining watching the 5 pilots take on a quartering tailwind.
In fact, it was so enjoyable that when we left Clinton for home instead of feeling like "We won't do that again." We decided "Next year we'll find a happy medium." And that is how the Clinton fly-in took it's first shaky steps towards becoming an annual tradition.