June 01, 2012
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Participants in last year’s paragliding competition get ready to launch off Woodrat Mountain, only two miles from Fiasco Winery, near Jacksonville.
Participants in last year’s paragliding competition get ready to launch off Woodrat Mountain, only two miles from Fiasco Winery, near Jacksonville.

Rat Race Ready

By Wine Press Staff

Just as Kevin Costner’s character in the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams” was called to build a baseball field in the middle of his Iowa cornfield, Fiasco winemaker Dave Palmer was inspired to build his own “field of dreams” outside of Jacksonville in Ruch. 

Instead of constructing it to honor America’s most beloved pastime, Palmer has created his own field of dreams for the lesser-known adventure sport of paragliding; and for good reason: Ideal landing zones are disappearing as agricultural development increases, mostly vineyards. 

As a longtime hang glider — he started in 1974 — and now a winery and vineyard owner, Palmer has worked over the past five years to create a five-acre, perpetual green space for the national organization, U.S. Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association, at Fiasco. Adding to his momentum, Palmer recently secured a $12,727 grant from the Foundation for Free Flight through the USHGPA to bury power lines, making landing at the winery even safer, which will lead to a permanent legal easement for use by USHPA members.

Like the most famous line in the movie, “If you build it, he will come,” Palmer hopes to attract more pilots to his “field” as well as new fans to the sport during the U.S. National Paragliding Championships, June 17–23, co-hosted by Fiasco and organizer MPH Sports on Woodrat Mountain, only two miles from Palmer’s Applegate Valley winery.

Dubbed, “The Rate Race,” the competition will include 200 pilots from all over the U.S. earning points toward the U.S. World Team. Participants will compete each day from Woodrat to various landing fields, including Fiasco, as well as Valley View Winery, Red Lily Vineyards and Fly High/LongSword Vineyards.

As pilots race one another, they often are within chatting distance and in view of spectators on the ground, but guests have to know where to look for them — especially when they are more than 10,000 feet above sea level. 

This year, problem solved. Utilizing the latest Wi-Fi technology, a small group of pilots has developed a system of live video feeds to display mountain-top launches, pilot head cameras, and Google Earth/SPOT tracking software that can transmit live, streaming video to big screens on the ground over existing web-based services.

Calling it “Rat Race Cam,” the streaming video will be available to all Applegate Valley tasting locations as well as local businesses in Jacksonville such as Bella Union, Schoolhaus Brewhaus and Boom Town Saloon.  

The public can watch the action at these locations or at sites along the race routes, although Fiasco — the closest winery to Woodrat — provides the best viewing location for the public. Other wineries like Red Lily and Valley View will also have direct viewing of the race as well as display live video and tracking.

To kick off the championship, a fundraising dinner has been planned at Fiasco, June 17 at 6 p.m., hosted by the winery, MPH Sports and the Rogue Valley Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association. Guests can meet the pilots and learn more about the sport of paragliding. Proceeds from the dinner will benefit the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of the Rogue Valley Medical Center and Magdalene Home, a house for homeless young mothers. A donation of $20 is suggested for the evening. 

Guided tours of the launch site will be available from Fiasco Winery. Daily departures for the four-hour excursion depart at 11 a.m. Lunch will be provided on the shuttle for $25.

For more information or to sign up for a tandem flight, visit www.fiascowinery.com.

EVENT INFO

U.S. National Paragliding Championships
Presented by Fiasco Winery and MPH Sports

LOCATION: Woodrat Mountain, Ruch
DATE: June 17–23 
INFO: www.fiascowinery.com