Remembering the Wild Days of Quincy’s Free Fall Convention
Quincy, Illinois will always have the notoriety of being first in the eyes of many sky divers. Remember how wild it became during the days of the Free Fall Convention that began in Quincy over 30 years ago?
There aren't many details about the beginning of the World Free Fall Convention on its Wikipedia page. It began in Quincy way back in 1990 thanks to Don Kirlin. It was an annual party that happened very summer through 2001 with some insane sights in the sky and on the ground.
In 1995, I remember when a group jumped out of a hot air balloon and there's video to remember the moment.
In 1996, there was the massive number of jumpers off of a 727.
In 1999, a jumper's vehicle of choice was a stunt biplane.
Sadly, the convention did have tragedies. In August of 1998, Jerry Loftis was killed in Quincy when his chute didn't open properly.
Why did the Free Fall Convention go away and eventually end? It depends on who you ask. The Sky Extreme website explored this issue right after the last Quincy Free Fall Convention in 2001. Was it an increase in arrests and the police presence as some assert? The article implies that it was the growth of the event that made it too big an attraction for the Quincy area to handle.
Freefall.com shared statistics from the 1998 Quincy event stating that 52 countries were represented along with all 50 states with over 4,700 registered jumpers.
I have friends that have shared "unique" things that happened at local laundromats when some skydivers would be sans clothing while it was washed. Those were the days.
After the last event in Quincy in 2001, the Free Fall Convention was moved to Rantoul, Illinois for a few years before being discontinued all together after the 2006 event. As The Herald-Whig reported back in 2003, Roger Nelson who was one of the co-founders died in a skydiving accident. Wikipedia lists "personal reasons" why the event was cancelled in 2006 and 2007 and no event held since.
It was such an iconic part of Quincy in the 1990's with only memories of what it used to be left with those who lived it.