labor day parade header

This last Labor Day was a big celebration for Marina, CA. It was the cities 40th anniversary. For you math challenged folks that would be 1975 when the small commuter town near Monterey took on its own governance. Labor Day has annually been a big event with a parade running down the main street of downtown on Reservation Rd. As many of you pilots in the 'Know' know it is also the exit a hang glider pilot takes off Hwy 1 to get to the famous dune soaring flying site 'Marina State Beach'.

Having built out the website for Marina's Mayor Bruce Delgado I have regularly crossed paths and conversed with him. I threw the idea on one such occasion in late July, that maybe the Coastal Condors could produce a float of some kind for the parade. Bruce loved the idea. I was both excited and a bit intimidated with the project that I had just committed the club to do.

When an email went out to the rest of the club membership there were only a few that replied. As could be expected Labor Day for many was an excuse for an out of town road trip to some other hang gliding site. I myself had been used to ignoring most requests from non-flying friends and families to do something on a holiday weekend because it simply meant committing myself to not flying.

I mentioned my frustration to my friend Pat Denevan, the owner of Mission Soaring Center and also whom I instruct for at the Tres Pinos training site. Pat immediately offered the use of his rolling training simulator for the Coastal Condors float. He had used it himself over the years in a parade called the 'Solano Avenue Stroll'. So there it was, we had a float of a small hang glider and no pilot to hook in and fly it down main street.

To make things worse a few weeks prior, while infact instructing, I had my worse hang gliding related accident to date. The crazy thing, I wasn't even flying. Instead I tripped while running at a full sprint along a hooked in 70 year old student and plowed into the hard sun dried packed earth of the training hill tearing my collar bone free of the restraining ligaments that attached it to my shoulder. This is what I now know all to well to be what is called an 'AC Separation'.

With a few weeks till the big parade, with all these challenges and very little support I was at a loss as to how I could pull it all together. As luck would have it, while stopping by English Ales, Marina's local brewery, my girlfriend Kerstin and I crossed paths with Coastal Condor members - Stephen, Donny and Terry. Each of them, one by one, decided to participate.

Thanks to Jan, another Coastal Condor member, the simulator was picked up from Mission Soarings Center's shop in Milpitas. He also agreed to join us for the parade. Everything seemed to be falling into place.

A few days prior, Kerstin and I practiced setting up the simulator. However the base looked very raw. Pat Denevan had suggested getting some astro turf but we needed something that looked like the dunes we flew over.  With that in mind we came up with the idea to sprinkle sand on a glue covered canvas and drape that over the base. With a few added chunks of ice plant and a little imagination it started to resemble our dunes. 

The morning of the big parade came. With donuts and coffee, the Coastal Condors got to work. Lee and Suzie two other club members joined us. With tape, cardboard, cutting knifes and wrenches exchanging hands our strange looking float took shape. The nearby marching band with members practicing blowing their horns and drumming their drums added to the cacophony.

Suddenly the group ahead began to move. Donny quickly zipped into his harness and hooked in and Jan and Stephen grabbed the steerings struts and off we weent.  With my one good arm I grabbed a pole with an attached wind sock and helped lead our small rag tag team. Suzie bellowed out "Coastal Condors, Coastal Condors, Watch Us fly."  "Coastal Condors, Coastal Condors, Watch Us fly." Terry and Kerstin helped document the event by taking pictures. 

As Donny 'flew' down the road, Jan and Stephen synchronized their efforts to steer the rolling float so that it resembled the banking turns of a glider. 360's and figure eights were displayed. Kids young and old cheered our exurberant team. For one mile we showed what the local hang gliding club could do. 

As the parade ended we settled into the Dimaggio Park amoung booths and crowd and set-up our simulator for those interested to hook in and try. A small line formed, mostly of kids and one by one we helped them imagine diving, cranking, and banking over the dunes. 

Who knows if our efforts will lead to a spectator or two in picking up the sport. None the less, it felt great to join our community and display our colors.