Above the airport, Kamloops BC
There was an atmosphere of happiness, fun, energy, and lots of spirit. Bright parachutes dazzled an almost cloudless blue sky above. I could hear the wind flapping and zipping along the chutes as the jumpers landed on the Kamloops Airport grounds; big bold colors billowing slowly to the grass around them.
It was the first morning of the Kamloops Skydivers annual May Meet. People from all over the world had collected the night before and parked their campers, busses, tents, and trailers for a four day weekend full of diving, fun, friends, and food.
I wandered through the crowd in search of Manager, Dean Schryver, someone I had only heard of.
Music was playing. Many four-legged friends were tied up in the shade on the grass. People chatted around picnic tables. Announcers sat under a shade tent calling out jump times.
“Hi Everybody! You have 10 minutes left to get ready for load number 5!”
Everyone knew Dean.
I needed only to ask a passerby and was pointed to a portable. I entered and asked, “Who is Dean?”
And there he was right in front of me with a wide smile and big, blue eyes. We shook hands.
I asked him to talk about his experience with the Kamloops Skydivers Sport Parachute Club.
“I have been diving for 14 years and instructing for 12. This is our 51st annual May Meet. The Kamloops Skydivers is one of the oldest acting sport parachute clubs in Canada. We are a non profit organization. Staff here all maintain regular jobs and devote the rest of their time to this.
There are 120 registered jumpers plus 20 to 50 tandem jumpers. They are coming in from Chicago, Alberta, BC, Australia, and Northern California. It is like a small community where divers meet up at many different places.
The airport has to permit this and they do it for us every year. We are very grateful to the airport for their support. I want to say thank you to Flight Services and Kamloops Airport, also our sponsors and St. Johns Ambulance.”
I asked him to describe the busy group of people walking around him.
“There is an atmosphere of exhilaration and community. A lot of people think we are crazy. Maybe we are! But we are also very professional.”
Another handshake and big smile from Dean and I was on my way to find Ken Eldridge, longtime caterer for May Meet.
I found him working hard behind a BBQ under a blue shade tent surrounded by coffee urns, condiments, and baked goodies. He was tall and friendly looking with dark hair. I followed him around as he worked:
Ken, what’s on the menu?
“Burgers and smokies and a different supper every night. New York Steak is tonight. The most popular order is ‘tacos in a bag’.”
Ken wasn’t a big talker and his hands were full, however I did get a bit more out of him as well as a picture!
“I’ve been doing this event for 7 years now. I have been catering for 17 years. I do other events around town. I have events booked throughout the summer!”
Ken Eldridge, Ken’s Mobile Catering
There was one last voice I was interested in hearing from; I was looking for a diver. And I found him standing in line for one of Ken’s delicious snacks. His name was Scott Stevens. Young, fit, and sporty looking, he casually answered my questions, posed for a picture, and wished me a ‘fun day’ when I departed.
“I’m from Kingston Ontario. I have 13 years of experience. I base jump and paraglide in different countries around the world.”
I asked him what he likes about this May Meet event?
“It’s the people. There is a comradery in this tight knit community. Last night we gathered around excited to see each other and caught up and had some drinks together. My very first jump instructor is here.”
When asked to describe what jumping is like?
“It’s just fun; good, dynamic fun. You fly.”
I left the event on foot while parachutes glided above my head like a giant rainbow, glad to have learned something about this unique group of daredevils yet still unsure whether I would ever jump. Would you?