BOONE — The skies of Western Watauga County will have plenty of flying objects in them from July 28-Aug. 3.
Those objects are not necessarily unidentified. Instead, it’s time for the 14th Annual Tater Hill Open. The event is expected to attract 35 hang gliders to Tater Hill for a competition of hang gliding based on distance traveled, the speed that they covered that distance and the control exhibited by the flyers.
“Depending on the conditions we decide on a task around the mountain, down the valleys and around the ridges,” event organizer Bubba Goodman said. “They’ll go as far away as 40 or 50 miles and the goal is to fly around the course line. Then you download your log at the end of the day. Maybe the farthest or maybe the fastest at the end of the day wins.”
Goodman is hopeful that the weather cooperates with the competition. He’s not so concerned about temperatures on top of Tater Hill, which has an elevation of 5,000 feet.
Instead, he wants to have a competition that is free of lightning and free of high winds. For hang gliding, wind speeds of 20 miles per hour can put the event in jeopardy.
Instead, some gentle breezes out of the west are ideal for hang gliding, a sport he’s done for years.
“The weather is looking smooth,” Goodman said. “We’re keeping our fingers cross the whole week. The forecast has the winds being light and that’s all we care about.”
Goodman said he started the competition one year after he bought land on top of Tater Hill.
“I still like to compete in hang gliding,” Goodman said. “Generally you learn so much more how to fly. I was able to buy the piece of land at the top years ago and then I started the competition a year after I bought it.”
Goodman said old-fashioned, word-of-mouth advertising has grown the event. There is also a website, www.flytaterhill.com, that gives entry information and a site map.
“This year I had a friend who will be coming from California,” Goodman said. “There will be people from Vermont, Texas — pretty much from all over the United States. In years past we’ve had them from all over the world. One competition, we had people from 10 different countries.”
Goodman said there are two divisions of competition in the event. A USHPA card is required and the entry fee is $225. Signed waivers are also required before competing in the event.
“There is one for not necessarily beginners, but for new pilots, who are here just to learn,” he said. “Then we have the open class for the more advanced pilots.”