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After a few days of rain and cloudy weather last week, the sun finally came out to produce a beautiful day to launch 35 crafts off a 30 foot high ramp into the Hillsborough River for the Red Bull Flugtag Tampa Bay 2008.
This year in Tampa, out of the 35 teams that participated, only a handful of teams were locally based in Tampa Bay. These teams included, the Tampa Bay Derby Darlins, 91st Air Refueling Squadron, Coyote Ugly Saloon, Team Tampa Baywatch and of course our own UT Spartans. These local teams knew how to play in their hometown by bringing home three of the four major prizes
UT Spartans “Flying Minaret”
Number four in the launching sequence, Team UT Spartans lined up what they dubbed the “Flying Minaret” at the base of the ramp awaiting their permission to launch in front of the largest Flugtag audience ever recorded. According to the Flugtag website, over 110, 000 spectators braved the hot sunny conditions for the world renowned event.
In order to boost their chance for the people’s choice, the UT Spartans had several people in the crowd wearing t-shirts saying, “Support your Spartans.” They were handing out the text message needed to send to Red Bull to give them the vote.
Their turn finally came, they donned their Spartan spears and shields and took hold of the flight deck, throwing anyone off in their path, reminiscent of the movie “300.” Gaining a large crowd response, UT alumnus and pilot, Kyle Wright, hopped in and flapped the “Flying Minaret’s “wings as his fellow teammates pushed him off the ramp and jumping in after.
Although they did not get very far, crowd response was great and only down the river stood the true Minarets that they proudly represented.
Later, the UT Spartans were featured along with only a handul of other teams as a part of their Headline News broadcast.
The Other Teams
Several other teams came from far and wide to compete in Tampa Bay. Team Flintstones Take Flight came from Texas and Team Junk Mail from White Plains, New York and others from all over Florida, including a group of firefighters from Bay County Fire Department in Panama City, Florida.
Teams are assessed by their distance traveled, creativity and showmanship.
The people’s choice award is awarded to a local team based on the most text message votes. The Tampa Bay Derby Darlins were given the People’s Choice Award. Their craft consisted of a large roller skate and a home made glider. Not flying very far, bringing their roller derby attitudes to the flight deck with a little girl on girl fighting gave them the prize.
The first prize winner was Team Tampa Baywatch. The five member team used to be lifeguards at Adventure Island in high school. Their resuce boat pulling a glider flew over 109 feet. Their skit was also entertaining with characters like Pam Anderson and the “The Hoff” from Baywatch episodes performing a mini concert for the fans. Their prize was a pilot’s training course for the whole team.
The second prize winner was Team Air Gilligan, with the entire cast of Gilligan, the Skipper and Ginger, the movie star. Don’t forget the Professor and Mary Ann. They flew their craft, which appeared to be made of anything you could find on a deserted island, 32 feet.
The third prize winner was The Little Engine That could from Panama City, Florida. After extinguishing a shed on fire and rescuing their buddy on the flight deck they loaded up in their fire engine and flew off the ramp landing 18 feet away.
Tampa was not the only privileged city to host the event this year. On Saturday, August 2, Flugtag will land in Portland, Oregon. Then finally, on Saturday, September 6 in Chicago.
Flugtag, meaning “flying day” in German, is hosted by the Red Bull Energy Drink Company. These “flying days” have been happening since 1991.