Pilots flock to Festival of Free Flight

Hang glider pilot Jerry Pessavento soars above Black Cap during the umpteenth annual Festival of Free Flight, drawing paraglider and hang glider

pilots from around the world to Lakeview.

Promising breathtaking views and swift summer breezes, hang glider and paraglider pilots returned to Lake County’s skies for the Festival of Free Flight held July 2-3.

Known as the umpteenth annual Festival of Free Flight as nobody can recall when it began, the annual event has become internationally known as a premiere gliding gala. This year’s group of pilots came from as far away as England, Australia and Germany to ride the valley’s breezes from Sugar Loaf to Black Cap.

Base Camp RV Park served as the base of operations. Most pilots camped out with their rigs which created a rather enjoyable ground-based social scene while awaiting conditions to improve in the air. Base Camp provided breakfast both days of the event, as well as a post-event barbecue on Sunday, July 3 where Lakeview True Value Hardware provided burgers and the Lake County Chamber of Commerce distributed awards. Local musical act Rico Nova and the Desired performed late into the night as a culmination of Lake County’s world-famous annual festival.

Saturday’s conditions were sporadic leaning more towards lighter paragliders, but Sunday provided near perfect flying conditions for hang gliders to take to the skies. High winds atop Black Cap made for crowded skies in the afternoon.

While most pilots came simply to revel in the hobby and share in camaraderie, there were several competitions held throughout both days. While a planned triathlon never materialized, contests were held for most cumulative distance flown, landing closest to a spot at Base Camp for hang gliders and paragliders as well as the not-so-coveted “Golden Hammer” award for worst landing. Finn Dunn claimed the best spot landing among hang gliders, coming within 21’02” of the target. Among paragliders David Lee was closest, landing 63’02” away. Phil Ray earned the most mileage award, tallying a total of 102 miles flown across the two days. Rick Christensen took second place accumulating 75 miles. As for the not-so-prestigious Golden Hammer, Yoshi Matsuda happily accepted this year’s prize with some good natured laughs for a flight that lasted a mere 30 feet. An additional prize was awarded this year to the earliest registrant, given to Stephen Smith.

For video of the Festival of Free Flight visit www.lakecountyexam.com/multimedia/videos.

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