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High winds add to wild times at Flugtag in Tampa

Members of the If Your Gunna Be Dumb, You Gotta Be Tough team soar and fall off the Red Bull Flugtag ramp into Tampa Bay on Saturday afternoon outside the Tampa Convention Center. More than 30 teams competed in this year’s event. 

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

Members of the If Your Gunna Be Dumb, You Gotta Be Tough team soar and fall off the Red Bull Flugtag ramp into Tampa Bay on Saturday afternoon outside the Tampa Convention Center. More than 30 teams competed in this year’s event. 

TAMPA — Not even high winds could keep these aircraft afloat.

A giant chicken landed face-first in the water. A fire truck took a nose dive. And a red and white mushroom got some air but didn't make it far.

One by one, the contraptions came crashing down as the crowd cringed.

The occasion? Flugtag.

The competition, put on by the energy drink company Red Bull, took place Saturday afternoon at the Tampa Convention Center and in the Hillsborough River.

More than 125,000 people crowded onto boats and along the water to watch 38 teams push their creations off the 30-foot-high flight deck.

The National Weather Center in Ruskin reported wind gusts up to 32 mph downtown on Saturday afternoon, making the event even more interesting.

"When we got up on the ramp, a gust of wind came over the top of the Convention Center and snapped our right wing," said Keith Humphrey, 41, the pilot of Willy Wonka's Amazing Flying Adventure team from St. Petersburg.

With the help of a broom and some duct tape, the team managed to fix its creation seconds before flight.

And they still managed to win the event. They also won in 2008.

"We flew 50 feet," Humphrey said. "It is amazing we even got off the ramp."

A panel of five judges, including former Bucs player Ryan Nece and Rays player Evan Longoria, judged teams on distance traveled, the creativity of their craft and their 30-second skit prior to takeoff.

Team BigStuff of Gainesville, Ga., came in second place with their Back to the Future-inspired craft resembling the DeLorean. In third place was U.S.A. Team, of Pompano, with a tank and characters from The A-Team television show.

"The wind wasn't too bad because our tank was so stout and so good," said Brad Fasold, 42, of U.S.A. Team.

But other teams didn't fare so well, whether it was the wind or not.

Team Shake it Off of Tampa didn't even make it off the flight deck in one piece. Their craft, modeled after the weightlifting device that shakes, crumbled under the weight of its pilot. Only the top wings made it to the water.

For the 2nd Basemen team of Tampa the idea of building a giant pink bra as their air craft seemed like a good idea. But on Saturday, it went crashing straight down.

"It happened really fast," said Chris Coleman, 50. "We'd still do it again."

Flugtag last took place in Tampa in 2008, when it drew the largest crowd in the United States with 110,000 people. This year, Tampa was the only U.S. city chosen for the event.

"It's one of those kinds of events that sets us apart," said Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who attended the event with his two daughters.

"We want to be a hip city, and events like these are what will do that."

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at srossetter@sptimes.com or (813) 661-2442.

High winds add to wild times at Flugtag in Tampa 10/08/11 [Last modified: Sunday, October 9, 2011 5:58pm]
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