All eyes — and dozens of cameras — were fixed on the skies Saturday morning, as Hays residents Renée Cline and Jackalyn Brown crossed a longtime dream off of their bucket lists.
The women, who work together at Rejuvenations Spa, were all smiles as they suited up for a tandem skydive, jumping from a height of at least 10,000 feet above the Kansas prairie. The Skydive K-State team had at least 18 local residents signed up to experience the thrill as part of Saturday’s Hays Regional Airport annual Great Planes on the Great Plains Fly-In.
“It was absolutely amazing. I don’t know,” Brown, who seemed elated, said after her jump. “It was just a couple minutes of straight calmness and it definitely gave me a new aspect of the beauty of Kansas. The scenery and the way it made me feel — it was just the coolest thing I’ve ever done.”
Brown joked her stunt made her an official member of the “cool moms club” — her young children watched intently and even cheered their mother on using blue pom-poms.
“Yay mom, yay mom, yay mom, yay!” her young daughter Annie yelled from the bleachers, which were set up to watch the skydivers land.
The two friends embraced immediately after their smooth landings, both grinning from ear to ear. It came down to a round of “rock, paper, scissors” to determine who would jump first, since they both wanted to. Brown won, and was the first person out of the plane.
“It’s very exciting that this came to Hays, because we were going to drive out of town to do it,” Cline said. “We’re not going to think about it. We’re just going to jump.”
“We’re taking it off our bucket list,” Brown added, as they geared up for their outing. “I’m actually like shocking myself how relaxed I am about it. I thought I’d be more nervous, but I’m not nervous at all.”
It was a tandem skydive experience, meaning all local residents were paired with an experienced Kansas State University skydiver. Both women said they took comfort in the fact their partners had each done thousands of jumps -- and there was a backup parachute, just in case.
The Skydive K-State club was a new addition to the annual fly-in event, which drew hundreds of people to the airport Saturday morning and also gave locals a chance to look at many airplanes, helicopters and emergency response vehicles.
John Lill, a member of the Skydive K-State, said there were six club members present in Hays to ensure safety during skydive experiences. The club members made a dramatic entrance for the event, wowing the audience as they performed aerial stunts and soared at high speeds through the air on their way down.
“They’ve got a big smile on their face,” Lill said of most first-time divers. “Most of them have a big smile. There’s some screamers, but most of them have a big smile on their face. It’s a different reaction when they get to the ground — some of them say they’ll never do it again, and others are ready to go again. They say, ‘How fast can you get back up so I can do it again?’ ”