I wasn’t sure what to expect from Leapfest in all honesty. To quote their website, “Leapfest is the largest, longest standing, international static line parachute training event and competition.” So, it is a day of watching people jump out of helicopters and parachute to the ground…in West Kingston, RI. Okay, that sounds cool. And it’s close to home. I am happy to report that it was an AWESOME family adventure! Here’s why I now love Leapfest:
Approaching West Kingston, we could hear and see the CH-47 Chinook helicopters flying their loop and parachute teams jumping out of them. The kids were so excited and, admittedly, so were my husband and I. We were going to see that all day, up close!
We parked and walked around the West Kingston Elementary School to get to the event. The parking lot opened to a school playground on our right, heavily utilized by kids who needed a break from the Chinooks, booths selling t-shirts and a decent crowd camped out on the side of a field watching people skillfully fall from the sky. For an international military competition, it was pretty low key.
Teams came from all over to compete, most notably from Botswana, South Africa, Germany, the U.K., and Canada, among many others. Impromptu geography lessons were crafted for my kids. Everyone came to show their skill of jumping out of a helicopter and landing on (or missing and running to) an “X” in the middle of a field. This is an immensely difficult task, especially given the wind. Every two minutes or so, we’d hear and see a Chinook, then we’d see four parachutes pulled open by a static line. It was literally exactly the same every time, though the repetition never diminished the awe of the act. In fact, it made us continuously stop in our tracks.
My husband knew some people at the event, including some of the jumpers. This made the event even more special for the kids. My son got to try on a jumper’s helmet, which he loved. And my daughter received her first challenge coin. Every jumper receives a Leapfest coin and this particular jumper offered his to my 1.5-year-old baby girl. It’s truly an honor!
Even if we didn’t know anyone at this event, the community is friendly and supportive. There seemed to be a higher awareness, appreciation, and acceptance in the crowd for (young) kids and families. And there are so many kids (and many ways to keep them busy)! It was a near-perfect, family-friendly environment.
Enough cannot be said for the appreciation of military service, the skill required to be an Airborne Soldier, and the global camaraderie this one day offered our family. Ample opportunity for observation and education for the entire family. And it was immensely fun. If you haven’t gone, you should! And oh, by the way, it’s free. Hope to see you at Leapfest 2018!