7th Monkey Claw Freefly Jam
On Thursday, May 23rd, they started arriving. Freeflyers from across the country and around the world made their way to Skydive Cross Keys, in Williamstown, New Jersey, for the 7th Monkey Claw Freefly Jam. The droves of freeflyers continued through Saturday, the official start of the Jam, and everyone stayed until late Monday, Memorial Day, 2002. Even with the history of unruly weather for previous Jams the weather this year was perfect. Each day freeflyers were greeted to warm weather, low humidity and blue skies.
The 7th Monkey Claw Freefly Jam was the biggest and best Jam yet, and it continues to improve and grow in size every year. The Jam is held every Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend, and it is in its fourth year. What started as a small local event has evolved into an international freefly festival.
Monkey Claw Freefly, a competitive freefly team and instruction school, based out of its home Drop Zone at Cross Keys, started the event in 1999 and the event has grown exponentially. The Jam is a weekend of great organized skydives, competitions, food, entertainment, parties and a ton of fun. Each Jam has a special theme that the food and entertainment is catered to. This year the Jam theme was the Running of the Bulls.
On Friday freeflyers began to register for the Jam. With a small registration fee, registrants received a Jam t-shirt, discounted jump tickets, a chance in the raffle, great food, and free beer, stickers and a license to ride the mechanical bull. Once registered Jam participants made organized freefly jumps with the entire Monkey Claw team as well as World Champions Mike Swanson and Rook Nelson that were invited to the Jam as guest organizers. Throughout the event Monkey Claw members Stuey Newman, Tim Miller, Adam Rosen, Heath Richardson and Bert Navarrete were available for organizing as well as one-on-one coaching.
Skydive Cross Keys had every amenity available to the visiting skydivers. Cross Keys had incredible airlift power by making available their Super Skyvan, Super Otter, and a Stearman Biplane for the weekend event. Throughout the boogie 145 loads in the Otter and Skyvan and 28 Stearman jumps would be flown for the over 200 registrants.
Friday was full of tons of skydives, lots of load organizing. The weather was perfect and all of the planes were flying until sunset. Once under canopy a cool visual was the gigantic mural of the bull painted out on the landing area. There was a video debriefing station and a great vibe across the entire DZ. After sunset everyone retired to the Tiki Bar for some fun.
Saturday morning was filled with incredible excitement. The planes fired up early to get jumpers in the air and the event in full swing. Monkey Claw was busy coaching and load organizing while Swanson and Rook organized other freeflyers throughout the day. It was also the start of the Jam competition, which was a two-way event with one free round and one compulsory round. Participants were able to do as many jumps as they wanted and had to turn in their best jump for each round.
Saturday evening Cross Keys provided free pizza and beer to all of the jumpers. Not long after dark a huge fireworks display was ignited and then jumpers made their way into the hangar. A large format projection screen had been set up to watch short videos that jumpers had put together for the Jam, as well as the promo for the 2nd Freefall Festival in Puerto Rico, where Monkey Claw had been organizing and coaching.
Sunday morning, eager jumpers crawled out of their cars, tents and trailers and watched as the morning haze burned off. Again the planes flew all day and jumpers were building bigger and better formations. Towards sunset the local fire department made its way to the landing area for their display of water control. Every year they lay out a huge arc of water from the top of the fire engine ladder for jumpers to swoop under. The water was fun entertainment for the jumpers and spectators.
Dinner Time. The Spanish fare was laid out by the Tiki Bar and registrants were treated to homemade paella, Spanish rice, corn bread, salad, and a few meat dishes. After all of the hungry jumpers were full the evenings entertainment was just getting started. For two hours jumper after jumper was given a shot at taming the mechanical bull set up in the hangar. There were a few two ways and three ways but eventually everyone got tossed.
As the night progressed the hangar was transformed into a huge nightclub with live deejays spinning great tracks and the Tiki Bar stayed busy until late.
Monday morning jumpers were a little slow making it out to the boarding area early but eventually all of the planes were flying. Around mid-afternoon the Jam raffle was held. There were Pro-Tracks from Larsen and Brusgaard, Altimeters from Alti-2, free jumps from Skydive Cross Keys, tee-shirts from Square 3, discounts on Icarus Canopies and Voodoo Containers as well as Monkey Claw videos, hats and posters given away to some lucky registrants. The winners of the competition, local freeflyers John Dalessio and Doug Urbany each one a discounted Icarus Canopy of their choice.
The Jam was a huge success and it will only get bigger next time. You can find out pictures from the event and more information about the Labor Day Jam by checking the website at MONKEYCLAW.COM.
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