April 16, 2022
In recognition of the 45th Annual Easter Beer Hunt and Rib Roast (which is today) i have included here the story of the 20th Annual EBH, perhaps the most memorable of all the parties.
We Jump EBH
The Easter Beer Hunt (EBH) is a tradition started in 1977.
My sister has a birthday that sometimes falls on Easter. In 1977 her birthday was Saturday, the day before Easter.
I called her up.
“Hey Debbi, I want to throw you an Easter themed birthday party.”
“Oh boy. That will be fun,” she said.
“I want to have an Easter Egg Hunt, but you know I don’t like eggs.”
“Then hide something you like.”
“I like beer,” I said.
A tradition was born.
People who came to the party brought beers. They hid the beer in and around my house, then searched for a beer that someone else had hidden. When a beer was found, it must be consumed before finding another.
The party grew quickly to over 100 attendees.
A few years later we began roasting ribs.
When Paula and I moved to Trabuco Canyon there was a old abandoned clay pit at the end of the street, just two doors down from our house. The Community Association graded and planted the pit to create a grass field with a playground at one corner. When the park opened the Association held a contest to name the park. I researched the site and discovered that a Sand-Clay mine and washing plant was operated by a prospector named Ike Arnold. I submitted the story and suggested the name “Ike Arnold Park.” My submission won.
Ike Arnold Park is now a flat grassy park about the size of two football fields side by side.
Perfect for a skydiving demonstration jump.
I resolve to jump into the park to start the upcoming 20th annual Easter Beer Hunt.
I arranged to hire the DC3. Skip, the owner of the DC3, has agreed to fly our team of 20 over the Ortega mountains to Trabuco Canyon for a demo jump into Ike Arnold Park. He generously agreed to charge us just one Skydive Elsinore jump ticket each.
I am a PRO rated skydiver which means that I am authorized to organize demonstration parachuting events. Dealing with the FAA is part of the PRO training. A Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) was filed with the FAA for the event. This notifies pilots of the event and clears the air space for the parachute drop. The NOTAM authorized Ike Arnold Park as a temporary drop zone.
Permission to do the demo was acquired from the neighborhood Home Owners Association. A condition of the approval was that the event be announced in the HOA newsletter inviting everyone in the neighborhood to attend.
It is 1996, the morning of the 20th annual Easter Beer Hunt and Rib Roast, the day before Easter. There is a ground crew at the park whose job it is to keep the grass landing area clear of spectators. The EBH invitation instructed attendees to meet at the park at noon.
Paula and I have arrived at Skydive Elsinore to meet up with eighteen of our friends for a very special jump.
It is 10:30 am at Elsinore when I gather the team to dirt dive the demo.
I arrange the jumpers in exit order according to their parachute size and rate of decent. Four of us will be wearing smoke canisters on our ankles. Everyone checks each other’s gear. I collect tickets from everyone and manifest us on the DC3 for an 11:45 take off.
Every year there is a theme for the EBH. This year the theme is obviously skydiving. I have purchased 100 toy paratroopers. Some of us load fanny packs with the toys.
“10 minutes for Thues demo. Gear up to the loading area,” announces manifest over the PA.
The DC3 roars up to the loading ramp, the two radial piston engines spinning props.
We line up and board the airplane through the port side passenger door.
This DC3 is 57 years old. It has appeared in the movies “Letters from Iwo Jima,” “Con Air” and “Pearl Harbor.” In the movie “Pearl Harbor” the airplane is being boarded by some passengers. Skydivers will notice that the hang bar over the door (used by “floaters”) was not removed for the movie.
The “3” taxies over to the runway, runs up the engines and begins to power down the dirt strip toward Lake Elsinore. An observer might think that the airplane is not going fast enough to lift off, but lift off it does. This large unlikely aircraft becomes a soaring bird in the air. There is a grace and elegance to its flight.
Skip climbs to 5000 feet then turns left to clear the Ortega coastal mountain range and Santiago Peak, also known as Saddleback Mountain. We fly between the twin peaks of Saddleback into Orange County.
In a matter of moments Trabuco Canyon comes into view. I am spotting from the door. Skip has the GPS coordinates of the park. I can see that the party crowd has arrived and that the ground crew has kept the grass landing area clear.
We make a wide sweeping circle along the base of the mountains. At 5000 feet Skip makes a practice pass over the park. I point left and right to tell Skip to slightly adjust his direction. A team member relays the commands.
“Two minutes!” comes the announcement from the pilot.
We all stand up and check our gear as Skip brings the DC3 around. I look down.
I point to port. Skip adjusts to his left.
“Cut,” I say with a slashing action across my throat.
Skip throttles back the engines.
I step aside from the door and point at the first skydiver in the line. He jumps, pulling the ring on his smoke canister. The trail of smoke traces his descent.
I count to myself “ready…set…go” and point to the next jumper. She jumps.
I point to one after the other of the jumpers who exit the airplane until the last person, Paula, jumps.
I follow Paula out the door, reach back to my smoke canister and fire it off. Now in free fall I make a slow turn to observe the valley I live in. There is my house. There is the park. Half of the team are already under their parachutes below me.
On the ground the crowd OOOs and AAAs at the smoke trails in free fall and the parachutes opening above them.
My altimeter reads 3000 feet so I reach back and pull my pilot chute from its pocket and let go. The pilot chute pulls a closing pin then drags the bag with my parachute into the air. The parachute fabric riffles until the nose catches air and pops the parachute open. I am flying above the park, still trailing smoke.
My ground crew has popped a smoke in the middle of the field to indicate the wind direction. Our team of skydivers have formed a spiral shaped approach, entering a down wind across the park, base leg along the road and final approach into the wind.
I watch as teammates land. I see Paula enter the spiral and follow her toward the ground. We land side by side to the roar of the crowd.
Paula’s sister runs across the field dressed for a party with a glass of champaign in one hand for Paula and a beer in the other for me. We take the glasses and toast to the Easter Beer Hunt.
Our nieces, nephews and children from the neighborhood come running up to us. They are rewarded with hugs and toy paratroopers. All the skydivers pose for pictures with the children. Most of the team takes the time to pack their parachutes on the grass. This fascinates the spectators.
I show some of the children how to prepare and throw the toy paratroopers into the air. Soon there are dozens of tiny parachutes floating above the field.
Other guests are gathered around the skydivers. They look with interest at the skydivers’ parachutes, some tentatively touching the fabric.
A reporter from the local newspaper approaches me. His photographer takes pictures. He interviews Paula and I.
Some Easter Bear Hunt lore is told. The reporter is particularly interested that Paula and I are a married couple that skydives. He asks me to send him some pictures from inside the airplane and some that I took from my helmet cam while in the air. The article turns out to be a great promotion for our neighborhood, much to the excitement of our Association.
With parachutes hung over our shoulders Paula and I lead the crowd down the street and to the house. We are Pied Pipers. Children run ahead. Curious spectators fall into line. This year’s Easter Beer Hunt will have the largest attendance so far.
When we arrive at the house Paula and I toss our parachutes into a closet and change into our party clothes. When we emerge I encourage guests to hide their beers while I fire up the grill.
The 20th annual Easter Beer Hunt and Rib Roast has begun.