Rio Creek Airport, owned and managed by Don Walter, was established in the early 70’s when a group of enthusiastic pilots began building a runway just west of “downtown” Rio Creek. Through many hours of rock picking and plowing, many friends and family members helped transform a field into Runway 7/25. The first flight out of Rio Creek Airport was piloted by Sonny Raasch, a cheese maker at the Rio Creek Cheese Factory, on August 28, 1973 in a 1946 415-C ERCO Ercoupe(N2486H), owned by his instructor, Don Wilson. Throughout the next few years two hangars, an aviators clubhouse, and an A-framed cabin were added as the aviation bug captivated the small town.
In August of 1975 the Rio Creek Aviators flying club was formed, one month later, on September 30, 1975, the club bought the airplane that they still have today, a 1968 Piper Cherokee 140(N6687J). With more and more members joining all the time, the Rio Creek Aviators organized their first fly-in on August 11, 1977, two years after the club’s beginning. Traditionally held the week after the EAA convention, the annual fly-in was soon hosting more than 20 planes and a few hundred people. The activities consisted of airplane rides, spot landing and flour sack bombing contests, and one year even included sky divers!!!
Following the enthusiasm and great turnout of the 1977 fly-in, everybody was looking forward to the second annual fly in, and they were not disappointed. On July 19, 1978, it wasn’t only local pilots flying into Rio Creek for the fly in, this was the day that Rio Creek Airport had it’s first foreign visitor. On his way home from Oshkosh, a Canadian pilot stopped in with his plane and enjoyed the day’s festivities. Following this appearance, club members jokingly began calling the airport “Rio Creek International.”
Despite the success during the 70’s and through the early 80’s, the traffic at Rio Creek International began to reduce and the once 15 member Rio Creek Aviators club shrunk to two, with the last fly in being held in 1984. The once full hangars had only two occupants and the clubhouse began falling apart.
Although the airport stayed this way over the next 14 years, occasionally a plane arriving with fishermen seeking Lake Michigan, it all changed in the summer of 1998. This was the year that three new occupants arrived with their aircraft and began getting the place back into shape. The brush was cut, the “A-frame” was made into the new clubhouse, and the hangar doors were fixed. On December 8, 1998 an open house was held at the airport showing the improvements and encouraging local pilots to stop in.
In the summer of 1999, an addition was made to the clubhouse which included an indoor bathroom and an upstairs bedroom in the loft.
In the summer of 2000, however, we took the first step in regaining the greatness that had been lost 16 years before. On July 8, 2000 the Rio Creek Aviators held a flyer’s breakfast with the poster reading:
After over 15 Years… We’re Back!!!
Although we were indeed back, the weather had it in for us and it turned out to be the worst weekend of the whole summer. It was raining all day and there were wind gusts of 40 m.p.h. Despite this setback, we still had around 50 people for breakfast (all coming by car).
Because of the disappointment of our first outing, we arranged a fly-in to be held on October 1, in conjunction with the Rio Creek Toy Show held at Walter’s of Rio Creek. For this second try, we received some better weather and entertained a few hundred people who could be shuttled back and forth from the toy show and fly in. Lunch was served in the clubhouse and airplane and helicopter rides were offered for a small fee.
In addition to the increased air traffic, another old tradition was restarted, Rio Creek Airview Campgrounds reopened. The sites in the woods surrounding the airport were cleaned out once again and the power was hooked back up. The sites begin next to the driveway and end down by the south hangar. Everything from dome tents to 35′ campers fill the sites pretty much every weekend in summer.
In 2002 we finally built our new hangar with a lot of assistance from everybody. In addition to the growing interest in airplanes, Airview Campgrounds increased from 14 campsites to 25 campsites with water and underground power being added to each campsite. Our thanks to all who helped by donating, building, cooking, cleaning, or anything else throughout the building process.
In addition to the fly-in’s RCA hosts schools and daycare groups in order to teach a new generation the excitement and pure joy of general aviation. All kids who are eligible, according to the rules of EAA’s Young Eagle Program, are also invited back for an introductory Young Eagle flight.
Since 1973 we have made many friends in Rio Creek and we hope all of them will continue to join us as we celebrate the continuing interest aviation and camping can bring.
We look forward to seeing this year!