Location, location, location was the key to bringing one of the largest annual skydiving events in the U.S. to Chester County.
A 600-acre landing zone formed by the runways at Chester County Airport, proximity to major U.S.-based skydiving equipment suppliers and being a short drive from Charlotte/Douglas International Airport converged to make Chester County the ideal spot for SkyFest Boogie 2008.
Event organizers expect as many as 500 skydivers to make 5,000 jumps today through Sunday, said Skydive Carolina General Manager James La Barrie.
"Our landing area is massive," La Barrie said.
Southern hospitality played a role, too.
"Support from Chester County and York County has been fantastic," La Barrie said.
Participants began arriving Monday and the first scheduled jumps are planned for today with three groups of 100 skydivers scheduled to parachute in starting at 10 a.m.
SkyFest began in 2001 to honor Jerry James Schrimsher, one of the first skydiving instructors/examiners in the sport, following his death in 2000. Schrimsher worked to improve the safety of skydiving during his life and SkyFest seeks to carry on with that mission.
In addition to jumps with 50 to 100 skydivers in the air at the same time, the boogie also will feature attempts to set state records for the largest all-female formation and the largest "head-down" formation, with jumpers dropping 180-200 mph in free fall before pulling their chutes. He needs at least 15 jumpers.
"The skill level to do it is immense," La Barrie said. "You need thousands of jumps under your belt."
Among the 400-plus experienced jumpers will be some local jumpers including Rock Hill native Steve Vaughn, who has jumped out of planes more than 9,300 times. SkyFest also offers lessons for beginners.
Events at SkyFest will wind down by 3:30 p.m. each day. During their downtime, local tourism officials hope the attendees and participants will explore some of the rest of what the region has to offer, said Robert Thomas, Rock Hill/York County Convention and Visitors Bureau sports marketing coordinator.
"This is one of the largest skydiving events in the U.S.," Thomas said. "It will put our region on the map and bring in more events in the future."