Oh Summerfest!

Summerfest 2021 Recap
By Tracey Holman

July 24 to August 1 at Skydive Chicago was the 20th anniversary of our Summerfest boogie! We had 633 people registered, along with around 100 staff members, totaling 14,041 jumps over ten days, using 17000 gallons of fuel, running 570+ loads, and making 1,234 smoothies! The weather was overall wonderful, and people were so happy to see each other and be able to jump together again after two years apart. The love in the air was palpable for both the sport and the community. 

On Saturday the 24th we started strong with 200 people checked in by the end of day one. The weather was fantastic, and skydivers had opportunities all day long for jumps with world-class organizers. Saturday night finished off with two food options at Tiki from both Eat Up (Italian) and Mo’s Food Truck. This is the first time we had brought in external food trucks to offer a variety of dinner options. Mo’s was such a delight to have as the owner’s teenage kids came to help and were blown away by this place and the sport. They were asking so many questions and are super pumped to come back to jump when they are 18 years old. Then myself, Josh Reuck (Marketing Manager), and Zej (Ultimate Summerfest Experience Winner) introduced the event Load Organizers with fun facts about each! This was followed by marionette beer chugging, which was highly entertaining for the crowd to watch as competitors would come to the front to attempt beer chugging from a cup using only marionette devices. Most of the beer ended up on them or the floor.

Each day followed with what felt like more incredible jumping than the day before. We had organizers in relative work, wingsuiting, free flying, movement/angles, and even XRW, which created a great platform for all jumpers in several disciplines and all skill levels to have an opportunity to be coached by our hand-picked team. I heard several stories from the LOs this week who said it was incredibly rewarding for them to jump with so many people, many of whom were achieving goals and milestones they had been working on. This includes the older wingsuiter who completed his first dock, the new jumper completing his first multipoint 4-way, and even me successfully jumping with the ninja freefly group (something not even fathomable the last time I was at Summerfest in 2016)! The jumpers who came learned more about the sport and progressed in skill and knowledge at a boogie! There were too many milestone jumps to count with several jumpers completing their 100 (go Jose!), 500 (nice job Grant!), 1000 (keep it up Bill!), or 2500th (thank you Pete!), just to name a few. 

Evening activities continued with entertainment well into each night for participants. Sunday, we had Sip ’n Paint, where teams of wine-drinking aspiring artists collaborated to create their rendition of our wonderful models Zej and Liz…but with the twist of Summerfest’s ever-changing rules. Monday was a new addition, the Not-so Newlywed Game which included some funny and eye-opening answers about various couples around the dropzone. Tuesday was one of our crowd pleasers, with Brady’s Magic Mentalist Show, including a handful of Chicago’s talented magicians coming for the evening to blow us away with their tricks. Wednesday revealed another new Summerfest activity, the Build Your Own Boat Contest, where teams created boats out of mountains of cardboard and raced to retrieve a trophy inflatable on the center floating island in the pond. Full-on Foosball took place on Thursday, with an intense four rounds and six teams all competing to be the champions, resulting in soccer balls flying everywhere at breakneck speeds! Friday, we enjoyed a stunning show from Casey McGrath performing Fiddlerock along with a team of fire twirlers organized by Zej. 

The last Saturday ended with a bang with a UFO jump, paraglider pyrotechnics show, police car stunt, and amazing fireworks display. Some of us did shots for our lost friend Nicholai, and then everyone hurried to Tiki for food and the Roaring ‘20s 20th Anniversary Summerfest Celebration. The costumes, music, and drinks were all amazing. Around 10:45pm Rook went on stage and presented a 20th celebration toast video with well-known skydiving athletes from around the world all congratulating Skydive Chicago on a happy 20th Summerfest anniversary. We popped champagne and toasted to Summerfest past, present, and future, then danced the night away.

I’ve received a ton of compliments on Summerfest but let me tell you that only a small portion of the event was me. We have an incredible team here at Skydive Chicago that I am so fortunate to be a part of, and it took an entire team to make this Summerfest happen. This year ran particularly well due to Anthony taking on the dropzone GM role, meaning he oversees manifest and made sure that the staff was trained and prepared beforehand especially when switching from paper tickets to Burble. Josh was also critical, sorting and editing hundreds of pictures daily to post them in a timely manner as well as capturing content himself, hunting me down for a daily Facebook Live, and sharing his office during this crazy time. Danimal woke up early and stayed up late to set up, and take down, clean and prep, train, and schedule grounds staff, so we have clean places to rest, jump, and party. That stage? He set it up. That foosball set? He set it up and stayed late to take it down. Saturday night at 10pm he fixed the water in the hanger while we were all partying, and he was outside with the planes again before first load on Sunday. Norge built the SF sign, the magic tables, and the DC3 stage prop. Ian and Keith spent countless midnight hours hooking up TVs, computers, upload stations, and internet. Allen fed all 700 of us morning, noon, and night. Doug, JRuss, and Ted recruited, scheduled, and led our large team of organizers. Rook flew to North Carolina Friday night just to get us a fifth plane for Saturday and overall guided all of us with a helping hand as well as the trust and flexibility in each of us to do our job well. 

People volunteered to give rides. People made Summerfest wine. People set up and took down lights, audio, and equipment. People stacked and carried cardboard. People organized costume jumps. People sat in boats in the dark to catch stray soccer balls. People bar-backed and poured drinks. People cleaned and set-up campers for others. People stood on the stage with a microphone to entertain us. People were respectful on the pond and zip-line. People took shots in memory of lost friends. People packed lots and lots of parachutes. This blog post is not enough room for me to thank everyone who made this event possible.

Cheers to Summerfest 2021!
See you next year!
Summerfest 2022
July 30 – August 7

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