Monday, May 15, 2017

'Fly By' event to kick off Canal Days in Portage, Columbia County, Wisconsin

Capturing the imagination is the whole point of pilots flying over the Wisconsin River and water performances courtesy of the Portage Fire Department and Tommy Bartlett Show, which are scheduled to kick off Canal Days next month.

“I really believe in the power of big events,” said Jared Pierson, the organizer of the very first Portage Fly By, “especially events that connect with our next generation.”

The Fly By so far features seven to 10 airplanes, a helicopter, the Portage Fire Department’s hovercraft, and Tommy Bartlett Shows involving a “FlyBoard” and jet ski. The event will be visible along West Conant Street, west of Pauquette Park, and will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 3.

“I want to create that glimmer of hope that changes their day or week, or maybe for some, changes their lives,” Pierson said.

Aside from fostering that flash of inspiration in attendees, the more specific purpose of the Fly By is twofold, Pierson explained: to create more family-friendly activities in Portage and to generate broader interest in the city.

Getting the Fly By organized, Pierson said, was a matter of reaching out to several people until it came to fruition, “pursuing them like crazy” and often working into the middle of the night. Pilots, Portage Fire and Tommy Bartlett Show representatives ultimately wanted to participate, for free, because they’re “really excited about supporting the local community,” Pierson said.

The show -- subject to favorable weather conditions -- begins with the flyover of airplanes and a helicopter, which will take off from Portage Municipal Airport, directed by airport manager John Poppy.

Possible pilots and aircraft, according to Pierson and Poppy, include Howard Hill in a Beechcraft A36 Bonanza; LaVerne Griffin and Peter Jensen in a Meyers 200; Dr. James Foskett in a Scottish Bulldog, which is used as a Swedish Air Force trainer; David Tesch in a Cessna 172; Dave Lytle in a Grumman Traveler; Steve Johnson in an Aeronca; Bill Robicheau in a Champion; Poppy in a Cessna 172; Leif Gregerson in a Ranger; and Eric Peterson, flying a Bell helicopter, which is a $4 million piece of equipment, Pierson said.

The airplane and helicopter fly-over will be followed by a demonstration of the Portage Fire Department’s “hovercraft,” which is used for water rescue. “It’s a boat that rides on air,” said Fire Chief Clayton Simonson. “You can go on water, land, snow, ice, as long as you keep a cushion of air underneath, you can go pretty much anywhere.”

The Fire Department has had the craft since 1999 and regularly takes it out to Silver Lake for training, Simonson added.

Following the hovercraft demonstration will be a boat of waving Portage High School cheerleaders, leading the way for the event’s finale featuring two Tommy Bartlett Show performances. The first act will feature the FlyBoard that “looks like they’re shooting a water rocket out of their feet,” Pierson said.

“They look like Iron Man.”

The second act will be the jet skier “doing all kinds of tricks.” Tommy Bartlett, based in Wisconsin Dells, is bringing its own announcer for the event, Pierson said.

Attendees should gather at the big, white event tent, which, along with a sound system, will be set up west of Pauquette Park.

Separate from the Fly By and Canal Days will likely be helicopter rides at the Portage Municipal Airport, after the event. Rides would be $50 per person. Pierson is currently working on pre-scheduling 20 rides. 

‘Positive momentum’

“Weather’s huge,” Poppy cautioned, “so if there’s a fog or rain, we can’t do it.”

If the weather’s good, however, the airport’s manager expects the event could be big for Portage. “Anything that brings positive momentum to the city of Portage is great,” he said. “That’s my opinion.”

Poppy pointed out Waunakee holds a similar event each year -- a way to showcase the local airport. “Who knows, maybe next year we’ll get more (participants)?” Poppy said.

“And it might pique somebody’s interest to start taking lessons.”

Poppy expects the fly-over itself will last only about 10 minutes, with aircraft taking off one minute apart from each other, following the same route.

“Be on time,” he recommended. Aircraft will fly at about 500 feet above ground, and that’s “as low as we can go.” If no one’s on the water, however, pilots might go right down to its surface. Regardless, 500 feet “really isn’t that far away” and should provide for an enjoyable show for families and children, he said.

‘Pretty big’

The Fly By is officially put on by Jared Pierson Enterprises.

“This is something I thought of because I have the desire to support our downtown, in the way I can contribute, which is creating inspiring, family events that are fun and get the kids excited,” Pierson said. “That’s a big part of my mentality.

“I try to think of things that not only get Portage people out, but others, too. I think we’ll get all kinds of people coming down (to Portage), because this is a pretty big tourist event.”

“Serving people is important to me,” Pierson said, “that’s part of the core of who I am.”

Original article can be found here:

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