As with any organization like ours, those who volunteer time and energy to make the society run are indispensable. In the next several issues of Digest, I¹ll recognize those who help make NFFS the respected organization that it is.
The first is Hank Nystrom. He spent seven years as our membership chairman, and was instrumental in getting our roster computerized. Hank also originated our Nats scholarship raffle and cookout. He has stepped down from the membership job, and after this past Nats he retired from the cookout.
Hank says it is time to go fly something. Next time you see Hank, thank him for his many contributions to NFFS.
Following is Hank¹s description of how the cookout and raffle came to be:
"The idea for an evening event at the Muncie Nats occurred because I felt it didn¹t seem right that at the end of each day everyone loaded their cars and drifted away to spend the evening in a motel or with a couple friends. I saw many of the contestants so seldom. I wanted to ask questions of them about their models or flying. During the day everyone is focused on flying, so chatting isn¹t appropriate. I also wanted to give something back to my Texas Timers customers.
My first thought was to set up a grill so people could cook their own hamburgers, with me furnishing the supplies. I¹d provide chairs and tables for some kick-back time. I wasn¹t sure AMA would approve of something like this on its property, especially when I also wanted to supply some beer.
But during the 1997 U.S.I.C. in Johnson City, I approached Joyce Hager with the idea, and she was totally supportive of it. As the idea fleshed out, someone pointed out that numerous individuals at the grill would create a logistical log jam. So, I'd need cooks and a staff. This idea was getting complicated.
I planned the first cookout for the 1998 Nats. By this time, I was NFFS membership chairman. I found that I, nor my friends, knew many NFFS officers. . To many, NFFS had no face or personality. I asked Bob Stalick if NFFS would like to be involved with the cookout. I was especially anxious to have all the officers and the Digest editor there, so they could be introduced to the contestants. Moreover, NFFS members could use this as an opportunity to get some face time with those far-off officers.
I really wanted NFFS to be involved in the cookout for PR reasons. Bob was totally in favor of collaborating. We agreed on a 50/50 split of expenses, with NFFS officers being present to help with whatever needed doing. I still had no real comprehension of the level of effort needed to pull this thing off.
How many would show up? Would anyone come? The first two years, tickets were in the Nats entry packets. If you were coming, you had to turn in a ticket with the number attending written on it. (Even today, people ask where to get the cookout tickets.) That first year, I did all the shopping. After that, Bob and Homer Smith (NFFS treasurer) helped me. Also, AMA went out and bought a brand new gas grill, just for me to use. We were the first ones to ever use it. I thought that gesture was really considerate of AMA, as I was struggling with where to rent grills. By furnishing ice, tents, tables and chairs, stock tanks, PA system, etc., AMA has really supported this endeavor.
Along the way, someone gave me some kits and engines for the benefit of NFFS. I was at a loss as to how to turn them into cash for NFFS. Abram VanDover had given me a roll of tickets to use for admittance. As I had decided to not mess with cookout tickets, I figured maybe I could raffle off the stuff.
Bob or Homer came up with the idea of tying the raffle in with the NFFS youth scholarship fund. I made up a little sign and a shoe box with a slot in the top to hold the tickets. The raffle was small but worked out well, and it fun for the guys. It grew quite a bit from that beginning, to the point where one year we had more than could be raffled off in any reasonable time frame. [According to Homer Smith, Nats cookout raffles have raised about $10,000 for the NFFS Scholarship Fund, Ed.] In recent cookouts we have been serving about 400 hot dogs to 200 people.
[In 2005, we cooked more than 500, Ed.] I think I did prove a need for something like this to happen. Also, AMA officials say that other Special Interest Groups heard of the success of the free-flight cookout and are now having their own.
Through the years NFFS officers and Digest editors have furnished major help with the work on the evening of the event. Some, more than others.
Moreover, numerous volunteers have just stepped up to help, such as Jo and Clark Darling and Jane Morgan (Ron¹s wife). The last two years Ron Tiechert has really kicked in. I always tried to acknowledge the people who helped before the raffle started.
The cookout has grown to be much larger than I ever anticipated, so the time is right for me to back out. Eight years is enough".