It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Paulette!
Supporters of the Hammond Arts Alliance took to the skies above the Hammond/Baldwin area Saturday, July 19, as part of a fundraising stunt to pay off the $25,000 land contract for Foster Hall.
Paulette Anderson, treasurer of the Hammond Arts Alliance and St. Croix County Board supervisor; Hammond residents Kristy Olson, Kayla Boyd and Jo Fenstermaker; and <I>New Richmond News<I> reporter Sarah Young of Prescott jumped out of a perfectly good airplane after completing the Tandem Skydiving Student Course at Skydive Twin Cities outside of Baldwin.
Anderson and friends agreed to skydive if they could raise $3,000 toward the purchase of Foster Hall (865 Davis St., Hammond), which was bought by two anonymous donors last year for $25,000. The donors are allowing the HAA to buy it on a land contract.
Anderson said she’s unsure of an exact amount, but a little over $3,000 was raised since the group accepted the skydiving challenge from HAA patron and avid skydiver Chuck Webb this past winter.
“Chuck challenged me to jump out of a plane as a way to bring publicity to the Hammond Arts Alliance,” Anderson said. “I challenged him to ride a unicycle during my Thursday night class in Roberts, and that night he said he would. But he’s chickened out. He’s afraid he might hurt himself.”
The other ladies decided to jump as a way to do something fun and bring awareness to the organization. Boyd, Olson and Young had never jumped before. Fenstermaker had jumped once, in 2005.
“It’s just so over the top and so few people do it,” Fenstermaker said. “It’s exhilarating and unique.”
Boyd (Olson’s daughter) and Olson both admitted to being nervous before the jump, though they were trying not to be.
“I’ve been too busy this morning to be nervous,” Olson said Saturday afternoon as the women waited to go through the training. “I had to drop my younger daughter off at the fair, and I worked til noon. Now here I am.”
Boyd said this is one thing she can now check off her bucket list at the ripe age of 18. She is headed to UW-Stout this fall, and said her next item on the list is to graduate from college.
“I’ll decide on something else (to check off the list) when I come across something cool,” Boyd said.
Anderson said she was trying not to think about it as the women watched other skydivers land in the field adjacent to the Skydive Twin Cities facility.
“I’m not adventurous,” Anderson said with a laugh. “I’m a gardener. A gardener.”
After the women completed their paperwork and training video, they had to wait an hour before they boarded the plane. During that time, Anderson and the other women chatted with HAA supporters who turned out to rally the divers.
Once the ladies suited up in their harnesses, met their tandem divers and headed toward the small aircraft, Anderson turned to wave at her friends cheering on the grass.
As the plane took to the sky, all was quiet, conversation-wise, as the women marvelled at the farms and fields below. Some laughed nervously; others sat stone-faced, trying not to think about the 60 seconds of free-falling from 13,000 feet at 120 mph.
Conditions were partly cloudy, so when the plane door whooshed open and the divers took turns sitting with their feet dangling before their tandem instructors nudged them into the sky, they couldn’t see very far through the mist. But that all changed once the divers broke through the cloud cover and saw the earth coming ever closer.
After free-falling for one minute, the tandem instructors activated the parachutes. The women then had to change from an arched, belly first position, to a sitting position while leaning back on the instructor. The women had the option to steer the parachute, though Anderson said under no circumstances was she going to allow for any “whirlies and spinning.”
After each of the women landed safely below, Anderson came off the field with her hands raised in victory. She even said she would do it again, though she prefers to work on another fundraiser first.
The Hammond Arts Alliance will be selling T-shirts and bumper stickers during Hammond Heartland Days (Aug. 7-10) for the annual Running of the Llamas event on Sept. 13.
For more information about the HAA or to donate to the building fund, visit hammondarts.wordpress.com.