A team of leaping Klondike Kates and a foam and aluminum loon flown by a fighter pilot were among the contestants announced Monday for the 2019 Red Bull Flugtag at Harriet Island in St. Paul.
Forty teams, including 25 from the Twin Cities and seven from greater Minnesota, will participate in the Sept. 7 event. The teams design, build and pilot homemade flying machines off a 30-foot-high platform and try to glide the farthest before plunging into the Mississippi River. Flugtag, which means “flying day” in German, was last held in St. Paul in 2010.
Teams are judged on three criteria: flight distance, creativity and showmanship. Katie Hawk is confident about the last two. The team is composed of current and former Klondike Kates of the St. Paul Winter Carnival. Team Captain Kristen Oster said the Kates decided to compete after being told the safer options they had volunteered for — belting out tunes for the crowd or singing the national anthem — weren’t available.
“We have no intention of winning this,” said Oster, Klondike Kate 2017. “We just want to have fun.”
Their plunge into the river is meant to help raise money for the Minnesota chapter of the Wounded Warrior Project — and raise the visibility of the Klondike Kate program. Only two contestants competed for the title of 2019 Klondike Kate, Oster said. The winner, Sheryl Williams, will pilot the Katie Hawk.
Flugtag has made more than 150 stops around the world since 1992, drawing millions of spectators. Tens of thousands of fans are expected to attend the free Harriet Island Flugtag, scheduled to begin around noon. Its return to St. Paul comes after Crashed Ice, in which skaters raced down an ice-coated track in front of the Cathedral of St. Paul, ended a seven-year local run in 2018.
Teams are made up of a pilot and four crew members who push the aircraft down a ramp before leaping themselves.
Other local teams include a flying stuffed burger from the Nook in St. Paul and Minneapolis’ Spoonbridge Cherry Glider, which competed in the 2010 Flugtag. Steered by a real pilot and designed by rocket scientists and a guy who came up with the lighting system at U.S. Bank Stadium, L’Etoile du Nord from Minneapolis looks like a clear favorite this year.
“I wouldn’t call us that,” said Jeff Jondahl, a team leader.
In a competition where each team’s craft, pilot and equipment cannot weigh more than 400 pounds combined, pilot Grant McCall was chosen in part because he weighs the least of anyone on the team, Jondahl said. McCall is also a trained fighter pilot who knows how to bail out of a crashing aircraft.
“Yeah, that’s why we picked him to fly the plane,” Jondahl said.
“Fly” being the operative word. In the case of the Kates — “Mistresses of Fun and Frivolity” — falling with style is probably more accurate, Oster said.
“There’s a little worry,” she said of the upcoming plunge. “But when am I going to have another chance to fall three stories into the Mississippi River?”
For more information, including event-day logistics, team profiles and allowed items on event day, visit https://flugtag.redbull.com/usa-st-paul/en/index-home/.