I’d never been to Skydive Carolina. My dad was a fan of DZO, Danny Smith and helped him out in his early beginnings with a Cessna 182 and a few tandem rigs. I’ve heard that this place had grown and that CarolinaFest was off the hook. It wasn’t until 2011 did I have my chance to see what the buzz was all about.
When I arrived I was picked up by the DZO’s wife, Annette Smith. Her long blonde hair swept across her face as she came to pick me and Amy Chmelecki up. She greeted us with big hugs as if we’d all been friends for such a long time. It wasn’t too long after on the ride to Chester, that I’d felt like I’ve known Annette my whole life.
We arrived at the DZ with blue skies and lovely, towering puffy clouds building in the humidity. We were taken to our RV where we’d be staying and had a fridge full of delicious foods, clean beds, and our organizer t-shirts. Now, I’m a professional skydiver. I’ve stayed in some rat-infested, dirty floors, moldy shower head, DZ-dirt-kind of places. This RV was immaculate! Clean sheets, spotless floors, shiny kitchen… if you’re a DZ kid like me, it was luxury!
The staff greeted us with their southern accents, introduced themselves, treated us like VIP, and just made us feel welcome. Then DZM, James La Barrie showed us around the DZ, gave us our LO expectations, schedule then showed us the Vendor/Organizer RV – a plush 32′ motor coach filled with lovely snacks, lunches, waters, and importantly, an air-conditioned retreat for us to relax and recoup.
Let me tell you, this is a quaint mid-sized DZ. A decent-sized hangar, the traditional RV parking, DZ couches but there was a something different – it was clean, the staff wasn’t burnt out, and the local jumpers had an incredible love for the place. You could tell, it wasn’t just me and Amy they treated like VIP’s, but everyone!
When the event started to flood with jumpers, we went straight to work! I decided to land out in the high-performance area since it allowed for clear airspace. I didn’t mind landing further away because as my feet touched down I was greeted by a staff member who shuttled me back. I usually made it back to the hangar than those that landed in the main landing area!
Every detail from the efficiency of getting on a load, the dinner buffets, having a spectacular vendor row, and free loads for attendees and awesome prizes and an off-the-hook Saturday night party…. This was it! This was the place that brought back the magic of skydiving, and was the first boogie I’d ever gone to where I felt like a professional athlete! But here, at Skydive Carolina, everyone is VIP, everyone is family. And that’s what makes this event, this DZ stand out. And that’s why I love CarolinaFest!
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