By Dan Walton
Canadas longest running light aviation meet can tally another year onto its rich history, as the 37th annual Lakeside Event will be offering aerial excitement for everyone with a view of the valley sky.
On Saturday, August 10th (August 11th in the event of heavy rain), onlookers are encouraged to head to the beach at James Chabot Provincial Park for an entertaining afternoon during the adrenaline-fuelled competition.
Between 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., paragliders and hang gliders will be launching themselves from atop Mount Swansea, aiming for a two-foot wide inflatable tube that will be floating in the water near the James Chabot beach. Between the pilots launches and landings, theyll have a chance to show off their skills mid-air.
When pilots come over the lake with additional height, theres an opportunity for them to show off some of their acrobatic moves, big winnowers or beach styles or loops, said co-organizer Frank Kernick. If we have enough elevation over the water, its a safe time to show how manoeuvrable these types of aircraft really are.
The pilots will be competing for a slice of a $1,000 prize pool, with the top hang glider and paraglider each winning $250, followed by $150 and $100 prizes for the second and third place finishers of both categories.
The most graceful landing and the best form will determine the winner if more than one pilot lands inside the inflatable tube.
This is an opportunity for us to launch off Mount Swansea and land in the lake at a targeted landing contest, where the public really get to see how much fun our sport is.
Mr. Kernick said competitors come from across North America. Most are from B.C., Alberta and the northwestern states, but some travel a little farther.
We normally see European pilots at the event if theyre travelling around Canada, he said.
The Lakeside Event is expecting to draw between 60 to 70 pilots. Mr. Kernick predicts that number to be comprised of approximately 20 hang gliders and 40 to 50 paragliders.
Both hang gliding and paragliding require pilots to take a leap off of a high altitude, but differences between the two aircrafts are easy to spot.
Hang gliders include traditional delta wings, a triangular shaped rigid wing in a metal frame which is flown in a prone position, he explained.
Hang gliding rose to prominence in the 1960s, two decades before paragliding became popular.
In the late 1980s, people started launching off ski hills with small square parachutes, and eventually realized they could gain lift that way, Mr. Kernick said.
Hang gliding offers pilots greater speeds in the air, but paragliding equipment is very light and mobile.
On the top of Swansea or down at James Chabot beach, its totally open and free for the public, he said. Well have events happening all day, including beach games, a DJ spinning music, and a silent auction in support of the event.
And every year during the show, around 100 boaters anchor themselves into position for a good view, he said.
After the winners have been declared and the day draws to an end, pilots and their loved ones will celebrate the day at the Invermere Lions Hall with some fun maritime and rock music performed by Revelstoke band Maritime Kitchen Party. The event will be held privately until 9 p.m., at which point the doors open to the public.
The family-friendly fly-in can be enjoyed from anywhere in the valley, but Mr. Kernick has advice for the avid spectator.
If you have the time to get up early in the morning to watch takeoffs from the top of Swansea, and then get down to the beach for the afternoon landing, thats always a great way to do it.