Three years after it first landed in Tampa, people are still talking about it.
It was hot and crowded, but crazy fun like no one had ever seen.
Organizers were flabbergasted when 110,000 people packed the Tampa Convention Center's waterfront for the city's first Red Bull Flugtag. Turns out it made history, drawing the biggest crowd ever to a Flugtag event in the United States.
On Saturday, it happens all over again when nearly 40 teams try to defy gravity in their homemade flying machines. ''Aviation history rests on a few loose screws,'' says a Red Bull promo, and it's no joke.
Teams of four pushers and a pilot will launch their human-powered contraptions off a 30-foot-tall ramp into the air — or sea — as is usually the case. A panel of five judges, including former Bucs player Ryan Nece, will score them based on distance traveled, creativity of their craft and showmanship of their 30-second skit prior to takeoff.
Teams will strive to beat the world record of 207 feet, set last year in St. Paul, Minn. History shows most won't get more than a few feet.
All eyes will be on Willy Wonka's Amazing Flying Flugtag Adventure, which won it in 2008 as Tampa Baywatch. Their craft went first and flew 109 feet. No one else came even close.
Pilot Keith Humphrey remembers it like this:
Looking down at the water, he was terrified and worried that the glider wouldn't make it off the ramp. Once airborne, it veered toward a bunch of spectator boats. Rather than crash into them, he pulled up the glider's nose, effectively stalling it.
"I would have had the world record had there not been a cross wind,'' he grumbled. "But I told myself, 'I'm not going to die for Flugtag.' ''
No one did, but his teammate Chris Elmore, who was riding in the launch boat, snapped his head back as he fell into the water and needed chiropractic treatment afterward.
Never fear, he's back for another round.
About 240 teams applied for the 38 spots and have spent months building their machines and planning their costumes and skits. Aircrafts must be less than 30 feet wide and 450 pounds, including the pilot.
Most machines look nothing like a plain plane and have ranged from a flying toilet to an Oscar Mayer wiener. Among Saturday's entries? A giant pink flying bra and Anchorman Ron Burgundy's flying mustache.
The Babes of Brick House recruited engineers from the bar's softball team to help design a flying stiletto made from chicken wire, fabric and aluminum piping.
"We think it's going to be really fun and really crazy. But we're definitely stressed out. When we got accepted, we didn't expect it,'' said crew member Sarah Coss, a server at the Brick House Tavern and Tap in Tampa, which is sponsoring the team. "We're hoping nothing goes wrong. Our goal is to get off the platform okay. We're hoping to get the People's Choice Award.''
Red Bull has produced more than 90 Flugtags worldwide, starting in 1991 in Vienna, Austria. San Francisco hosted the first U.S. event in 2002, followed by Chicago, New York and other big cities. Tampa is one of the few places to host the event twice and is the only U.S. stop this year.
Organizers have compared Flugtag (German for "flying day") to Gasparilla, Tampa's biggest annual party that draws hundreds of thousands of people to downtown's waterfront and Bayshore Boulevard.
"We were told we had as many boats or more boats than Gasparilla and we're expecting more this year,'' said Red Bull spokeswoman Lisa Beachy.
To accommodate crowds, Red Bull has expanded its viewing area along Bayshore near the Platt Street bridge by adding a second jumbo screen, shade tents and food trucks. It recommends people carpool or park in the city's downtown garages or in Ybor City. Parking at Tampa General Hospital, which had huge traffic jams during the last Flugtag, is discouraged.
Visitors should expect traffic delays getting to and from the event, exacerbated by this week's closure of the Platt Street bridge and the 17th annual Tampa Police Memorial Run in the morning along Bayshore. Spectators wanting to walk from the convention center to the Bayshore viewing area will have to cross over the Brorein Street bridge to the north. Bayshore will be closed from Platt Street to about Rome Avenue.
Unlike 2008's Flugtag, this year's will not be broadcast live on television. Instead, viewers can watch it at redbullusa.com/flugtag or at some bars streaming it live, including Jackson's Bistro, Tampa Marriott Waterside, downtown Embassy Suites, The Rack, MacDinton's and Shephard's Beach Resort in Clearwater.
Post flights, the party will move next door to the Rock & Brews Fest at Cotanchobee/Fort Brooke Park from 4 to 7 p.m. The free festival will have music by the Beauvilles, Tim Hutchinson and Rocksteady@8 and craft beer from Cigar City Brewing.
Anyone wanting to relive it can watch a 30-minute highlight show airing on Bright House Sports Network starting at 7 p.m. Oct. 25.