There is also a buzz about town as the streets are filled with cars,
people are out and about everywhere, and businesses see an influx of
visitors and the local people who have stayed in town for the art
and balloon festivities.
It is one weekend, and when it is over, planning begins for the
Several years ago the Logan County Airport became home base to
the balloon festival. Balloons either launch or land on the grounds,
and the airport grounds are set up to host spectators and
Well, now there may be something new that could also provide
unusual viewing and entertainment in the skies over Lincoln and the
grounds at the airport. Next year, if not this year, Lincoln could
become home to a skydiving boogie.
A skydiving boogie is a gathering of enthusiasts that attracts
participants from all over the United States and beyond for a few
days of fun and fellowship.
Organizers presented their plans before the county board's
airport committee earlier this month, since the Logan County Airport
is owned and operated by the county.
Beth Mahlo from Rock Island and Mark Gadert from Springfield
explained that because of its central location between other boogie
events, the community's accessibility, and the airport's and
community's size and available space, the Logan County Airport would
make a great place to host an event. The nearest events are in Iowa,
Indiana and Wisconsin.
Mahlo said they would do all the promotion and setup. She
described it this way: "What we do is set up a little city and
create an atmosphere that the skydivers can enjoy, and they come
hang out for three to four days."
She has been doing these events for years and said that she has
the connections to the skydivers. There are people out there right
now who would like to come to a boogie in this type of area. There's
even a man in France who knows about their hopes to have an event
here and has said that he would like to come to the event if it were
held here, "in your community," she said. She believes she could get
200 skydivers here the first year, and 300 to come the second year.
And, while not yet named, this would likely become an annual event
that they would keep to a moderate size.
Mahlo described some of what a boogie is all about. The people
who come to a boogie are mix of people from all walks of life. Many
of the skydivers are in professions that include doctors, lawyers,
farmers, judges and dentists, to name a few. There would also be
those affectionately called "drop-zone bums" -- people who follow
boogies to do such jobs as packing parachutes for a living. Between
flights everyone has a great time interacting with the drop-zone
bums, often being the ones looked to for tips on how to do a
particular maneuver. The days are filled with good camaraderie, and
great fun is had by all. When a day is done, many stick around to
enjoy food, fun and fellowship at the airport, with some of the
participants even opting to camp on airport grounds.
"It's tremendous fun and great entertainment for the community,"
Mahlo said. With jumps taking place all day long, the activity
generally attracts small, steady crowds. There might be 25 people in
the stands watching at any given time. People watching just come and
go all the time, she said.
"The people are fascinating," she says. She explained that some
of the skydivers paint their hair wild colors; that is to help
identify their group members while in the air. There would be some
skydivers with advanced skills who would be doing some complex
performances, including parachute stacking.
Mahlo's interest began with her husband. He is a skydiver with
many years of experience. They've traveled all over the U.S. from
Wisconsin to Texas going to boogies, and she's been organizing them
about a dozen years. "I've been involved in little-bitty boogies and
great big, gigantic boogies," she said. "And what we're looking to
do here is somewhere in between."
Mahlo explained some of the benefits to the community. There
would be the all-day entertainment watching the skydivers. Some of
them are fascinating people, and there would be opportunities to get
their autographs, Mahlo said.
The event would bring in tourist dollars, particularly benefiting
hotels, restaurants and gas stations.
Local organizations would be asked to supply the sale of
amenities, such as food and drink stands for the participants, who
generally prefer to hang out at the airport while activities are
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The organizers are asking for use of the airport facility, camping
on-site, that local vendors be allowed on-site to provide amenities,
and that they would be allowed after-hours entertainment of a band
and a bonfire, with alcohol sales provided by a local vendor.
An accomplished skydiver himself, Gadert has been a 20-year
pilot, a skydiver pilot, flight instructor, and he has also been
involved with boogies for years. He would be responsible for the
The organizers had targeted mid-July as the best opening in the
Chuck Holzwarth, owner of the aerial farm chemical application
business that operates out of the Logan County Airport, was present
during the meeting. Holzwarth was asked about when his season peaks.
He said it is July. He has five to six planes running all day the
whole month. One of his air tractors is either taking off or landing
every five minutes on average from sunup to sundown throughout July.
So, he preferred that the boogie not be scheduled during that month.
Gadert said that depending on how many skydivers participate,
they would probably employ two planes, one a King Air and another
turbine aircraft. They would be taking off with a new load of
skydivers every 30 to 40 minutes.
He and Holzwarth spoke on the spot about the possible
arrangements. Gadert believed they could work together to not
interfere with the ag business and yet keep skydivers safe by
restricting skydiving activities and the drop zone to the north end
of the airport.
"We're not here to take over the airport," Gadert assured. There
would not be any temporary flight restrictions. He said that he
would file a notice with the FAA to make pilots aware of the unusual
activity taking place, but the airport would remain fully
operational to all planes.
One of the biggest hitches arose over liability insurance for the
event. The organizers had planned their standard $1 million
coverage, with signed waivers from each skydiver.
County finance chairman Chuck Ruben felt that the amount would
not be enough to protect the county and that waivers are not strong
enough to hold up in court.
The organizers said that aviation insurance has become quite
high. Mahlo said that waivers are used at other boogies and have
even held up to testing in court, but that the organizers would
consider other affordable options, if something could be found.
Airport committee member Bill Martin suggested seeing what
insurance the chamber gets for the balloon fest.
It was unknown if everything could be in place for a event in
Lincoln this year, but the boogie organizers agreed to work with the
ag business on choosing a date and look at the insurance options. If
they and the committee could resolve all the matters, the event
could possibly get its start in 2009.
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