I was woken up at 1:30am Saturday morning by massive wind, rain, thunder and lightning. A slight panic came over me – what if Flugtag was cancelled? Over 500 hours of work would have gone down the drain. I managed to fall back asleep and was awoken by my alarm at 4:30am. Red Bull had asked our team to be down at Harriet Island by 6:00am in full costume for media. We were not 100% certain what they meant by “Media”, but we knew we wanted in! It was easy to get up with the anxiety of it all, quickly get dressed and head out the door.
When we arrived at Harriet Island, it was chilly for July but at least it was not raining! We were quickly approached by a nice Red Bull rep with long blond braided pig tails who let us know we were going to be interviewed live by both Channel 5 & 9. Ummmmm…OK! The first “quick hit” was with Channel 5. They equipped Nik & I with earpieces & microphones and told us it would be a live feed where the anchors would ask us questions. I quickly realized it takes some talent to be able to do this, which we seemed to lack! Nik & I could hear the anchors asking us questions but were not able to communicate who would answer what question. They asked about the Pilot and we both looked at Erin like she was going to answer. Neither of us realized in the moment that she couldn’t hear the anchors, only we could (I know…duh). Overall, it was a decent interview and something none of us had experienced before. I can’t wait to see the play back of it!
The next “quick hit” was for Channel 9 morning news with Todd Walker. This interview was hands down the most fun. We went up on the Flugtag launch pad, he lined us up and asked each of us a question. Then, he asked for a preview of our dance and we showed him about 8 counts of our skit. It was great because we were all able to participate and had a blast doing it.
At 8:00am, the rest of the teams arrived for the day. Red Bull risk management came around to make sure our crafts were “safe”. I mean really? How safe can they be when you chuck them off a 30-foot launch pad? The judges including St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, X Games Athletes Levi Lavallee & Grete Eliassen, Vikings linebacker Ben Leber and mascot Ragar followed risk management to judge our craft.
Shortly after the judges passed by, the gates opened to the spectators. I clearly remember looking up at what I thought was the only gate, and seeing 1000’s of people in a mad dash towards the river for a good spot. I’m sure my jaw was on the ground as I turned around and realized there was another gate behind us. People were pouring onto Harriet Island and almost instantly surrounded us. It was literally non-stop from 11am – 12:30pm with people taking video, pictures, and asking for radio interviews. It was absolute madness and was beyond anything we could have anticipated! I’m fairly certain we all had perma-smiles.
The Red Bull crew started clearing out as many people as they could from the hanger and started the opening ceremonies. The Minnesota Viking Cheerleaders kicked it off with some sweet dance moves, the National Anthem was performed and then the Red Bull Air Force sky dove into the venue and landed on the flight deck!
The processional started and one by one, teams performed skits and launched their Flugtag into the Mighty Mississippi. This included the new world record holders, Major Trouble and the Dirty Dixie’s. (Although…If I had 15-20K and a team of engineers to build my Flugtag, we could have won too. No bitterness here!) We were slowly creeping up to the ramp and I instantly got so excited. This event didn’t even compare to my days performing as a diver or gymnast. This was 90,000 people with all eyes on us. We were fitted with helmets, life vests and started the push up the ramp. I wasn’t nervous but my stomach was turning – it was sheer excitement and some anxiety. Once we were I top, I realized you couldn’t see the faces of the crowd; the people looked like a sea of colorful ants. Not being able to see the faces somehow made it easier to perform.
I remember taking a moment to do a full circle and take in all of the people at the event. Just imagine, the new Twins stadium holds 40,000 people, this crowd was more than 2 times the amount of that!
At the top of the ramp, host Uncle E did a quick interview with Nik. In the blink of an eye, the Jetsons Theme song remix started and we were shaking our butts on camera in front of all those people! We did what I thought was an amazing job on the dance (no one forgot the moves) and then ran behind the craft. Erin gave the OK and we started pushing. We were a little worried the wheels would pop out or the craft would veer right, but it didn’t! About 5 steps in, Chris yelled “We’re good…PUSH!” And so we did! We hurled Erin off the 30-foot launching pad into the Mighty Mississippi. That moment to me seemed like it took place in slow motion as Erin screamed and rode the craft all the way down. Holy crap…it LANDED! I quickly jumped off the launching pad (with a split jump toe touch of course) and plummeted into the water below. I came up and everyone was cheering and my fellow flyers were all safe in the water screaming with excitement. We swam over to the Jet Ski’s, which towed us to the water exit. (BTW, when you step down, the Mississippi muck is up to your knees! Yuck.)
Comedian Dan Levy did another quick interview, asked us about our costumes, and we were done just like that! We were able to go into the Pilot Lounge, relax and watch the remainder of the teams attempt to fly.
We later learned our scores were 7,8,9,9,9 and a 10, which we couldn’t have been more pleased with. Although we didn’t win or place in the top 5, it didn’t even matter. We were 1 of 38 teams selected to participate out of over 430 applicants. This was truly one of the best things I have ever been a part of. It’s almost an indescribable adventure that not many people are lucky enough to be a part of, and one that I will never forget.
Thank you to all of our friends, family and fans who came to watch us fly and who also supported us through the process. I am so happy you were all able to share this with us. Would I do it again? In an absolute heartbeat!!
GO St. Paul Sprocket Rockets! Check out our flight here:
P.S. I am still waiting for all the video and will compile a master imovie to share once I have it all.