Portable Restroom Operator Services Airshow Second Straight Year

Deans Enterprises navigates around thousands of airplanes and spectators to service one of the largest airshows in the country.
Portable Restroom Operator Services Airshow Second Straight Year
Dean Septic employees clean out some of the 1,000-plus PolyJohn PJN3s on the EAA grounds with one of the company’s Ford F-550s. Attendees walk past.

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Dean Enterprises is a septic and portable restroom business operating out of a 3 1/2-acre facility in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. The company is owned by Richard and Peggy Dean, and managed by their four sons — general manager Tony, heavy equipment operator Tom, mechanic Brad and personnel manager Mike. It’s split up into three divisions — septic, route work and events.

The AirVenture project was managed by their event division, Pit-Stop Event Services, but other than route drivers everyone in the company was involved, including five event technicians to handle portable restrooms, four septic drivers to pump holding tanks, office workers Bethany Warner and Alex Bloch to schedule RV pumping, and six part-timers to clean and stock restroom and shower trailers. Peggy served as lead for the project. They also appealed to family and friends. “We call in any favors we can get,” Tony Dean says. His grandfather Frank Hope helped. “And two of our farmer buddies took off for a week and worked.”


The company began as a septic business in 1995 when Richard bought out the contractor he had been working for. When a customer encouraged him to add portable restrooms, he bought six to give it a try. He slowly increased his inventory as further requests came in and by 1998 portable restrooms became a substantial part of the business when he picked up 600 units in an acquisition.

After two more acquisitions and steady organic growth, the company’s inventory now stands at 6,000-plus units, 75 percent PolyJohn Enterprises PJN3s, the remainder Satellite Industries Tufways. They also have 18 Ameri‑Can restroom trailers (16-foot to 40-foot) and 15 Ameri‑Can shower trailers (six-stall to 22-stall). Their service territory covers a 90-mile radius.


2016 was the second year the company handled the AirVenture event, although they had helped the previous contractor on parts of it for a couple years. Changes at the previous contractor led to the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) putting the project out to bid in 2015. There were a lot of bidders, Dean says, but he believes they won it because of their familiarity with it and because they were one of a very few companies who had the resources to handle all the liquid waste for the event.


Mass arrivals of aircraft began on July 23, 2016, for the 64th annual EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, an annual week-long recreational aviation event that brought in over 500,000 visitors from 80 countries, 10,000 aircraft of every vintage, 860 exhibitors, 950 media personnel and 4,000 volunteers. The Wittman Regional Airport control tower boasts a sign declaring it the busiest tower in the world during that week. The airport and surrounding area became something of a small town, complete with stores, shuttle service, a daily newspaper, and “neighborhoods” where each aircraft type had their own area. Aviators typically camped next to their planes, while other visitors stayed in on-site campgrounds and hotels.

Events included day and night air shows, over 1,000 educational programs and workshops, a KidVenture zone, and concerts. Highlights in 2016 featured Desert Storm 25th and Pearl Harbor 75th commemorations, the Canadian Snowbirds, a World War I aviation celebration and Boeing’s 100th anniversary. Actor Harrison Ford flew a plane carrying the 2 millionth member of Young Eagles, a children’s education program.


To supplement on-site facilities the company brought in 1,000 PolyJohn PJN3s (dark gray with bright lime-green corners and vents) and 75 Satellite wheelchair-accessible units, all with hand sanitizer. They ordered all-new units for this event, with shipments coming in throughout May and June. Four groups of 20 units were placed in high-traffic areas, the rest in small groups of four or less throughout the facility, mostly in the campgrounds. “We placed a restroom every 75 to 100 yards,” Dean says. “If you could throw a stone you could probably hit one.”

The company also provided 16 restroom trailers for vendor hospitality tents and high-traffic areas, 15 shower trailers in seven camper locations and 35 325-gallon Kentucky Tank holding tanks for numerous food courts and cooking facilities.


At the end of May the company dropped off 100 units for volunteers. Then, using vacuum trucks and 20-unit transport trailers built by Emerich Manufacturing, they made a couple deliveries a week — usually on Wednesdays, their slowest day — with a big final push at the beginning of June. Then it took about a month to set everything in place.

Holding tanks were brought in a few days before the event, as were shower and restroom trailers, which were transported using two 2012 Ford F‑450 duallys and a 2005 International Eagle semi tractor.

The company also set up an operations center adjacent to the venue. The crew gathered there in the morning to pick up daily job assignments and later cycled back to eat lunch and dinner catered by a local company. Communications to the team were done using BayComm two-way radios.

With a massive effort at the end, everything was removed in four days.


Service was done with eight 2007-2014 Ford F-550s with 800-gallon waste/300-gallon freshwater tanks, one (aluminum) built out by Progress Tank, the others (stainless steel) by Best Industries; a 2005 Ford F‑750 with a 1,850-gallon waste/300-gallon freshwater steel tank; a 2006 Ford F‑750 with a 2,000-gallon waste/500-gallon freshwater stainless steel tank built out by Best; and their four 6,000-gallon septic trucks (1998 and 1999 Macks, a 2003 Volvo and a 2009 Peterbilt). Waste was off-loaded to the larger vehicles for daily disposal at the Oshkosh water treatment plant.

Working two to a truck, all units were cleaned twice a day — 4:30 to 11:30 a.m. and again at 1 p.m. When they finished, the team headed off to pump RVs, working from schedules prepared by Warner and Bloch, who manned a booth where RV owners could sign up for service. Typical workdays were 16 to 18 hours, Dean says.

Shower and restroom attendants, using four 2010 Club Car golf carts and two side-by-side utility vehicles (a 2014 Kawasaki Mule and a 2014 Polaris Ranger), worked from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m stocking and cleaning. Paper supplies and deodorant products (Satellite’s Safe‑T‑Fresh) were stored in a 2005 53-foot drop-deck semi trailer.

Meanwhile, the septic guys, working one to a truck, spent the days — and again late at night — pumping company-provided holding tanks, the on-site underground tanks (ranging in size from 2,000 to 15,000 gallons) and shower trailers.

Despite the crowds, Dean says navigating was not a problem. “As far as big events go it’s pretty good because it’s such a large area and there’s tons of roads and multiple ways of getting around.” Helping them out was a ban on spectator vehicle traffic.


An event of this magnitude takes lots of planning — “all year long,” Dean says. “We get a PDF map with all locations, we do an aerial view, we do several meetings with them.” They created a spreadsheet containing locations, units and equipment serial numbers. Areas were split up and drivers assigned specific zones.

The week before the event the team did an on-site dry run to go over routes and make sure everybody knew who was doing what. But it’s a team effort, Dean says. “If somebody finishes early, they hop on to the nearest guy and help him out.”

It’s that teamwork that makes doing an event like this enjoyable, Dean says, despite the grueling schedule. “This is probably one of the best teams you could ever be a part of. All the big events we do are fun. It’s why we keep doing it.”


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