FEATURE Those Wright bros never did it like this…

Everyone loves a jackass, and FLUGTAG Miami was happy to bring Bayfront Park over 100 professionals on Saturday. As soon as the gates opened at 12, thousands of fans, some privy to what a FLUGTAG is, others completely lost – in both meaning and pronunciation – got ready to watch almost four hours of 31 teams, dressed in funny costumes and chock full of Red Bull, trying to fly toilets, cod sacs, pregnant animals and many other weird things, off of a 30 foot barge into the Biscayne intercoastal, all in celebration of fun, flight, and the intoxicating magic of the little energy drink that gives you wiiings.

FLUGTAG, which is German for flying day, was supposed to come to South Beach last year, but due to dangerous weather and unsafe flying conditions, it was postponed to a much more gorgeous, lightly breezy day – perfect for flying JIP C Cruzrs and giant Homer Simpsons. The event was overall, hilarious.

Among the celebrity sightings were Kenny and Footy from Y-100, who worked the microphones and the crowds, while Dave Barry, humor columnist for The Miami Herald, stayed out on the deck to greet the brave pilots as they came straight from the water, soaking wet and a little bruised, but full of enthusiasm. I got to meet Dave Barry, thanks to the powers of the press pass, whose wife, a UM alumn, used to write for The Miami Hurricane.

Such celebrity sightings are pretty normal for Miami, but when Al Crespo, the famed photojournalist better known for his coverage of riots and protests in South America and Miami during the FTAA, shows up, you know that trouble is very likely. Was he getting ready for violent outbursts from the crowds, overheated from standing in the sun for over four straight hours? Or would the contestants start fighting amongst themselves, throwing crushed Red Bull cans at their opponent’s aircraft?

There almost was a little bit of trouble, besides the flimsy aircraft being crashed into the water by caffeine-addled college students all day, when one of the crew members from the Empanada Glider got hit by his aircraft shortly after takeoff, or what was instead an instant black flip, with a flight distance that was almost in the negatives. The Latin who had been salsa dancing on the 30 foot barge shortly before his plane landed – not quite flight-like – in the water, was bleeding a little bit and clearly had been shaken up too. A reckless mixture of Red Bull, booze and guayabera shirts was definitely the elixir of life for this event and of course, the very thing to blame for such irresponsibility. Not even whiskey would be right for such an event.

Amazingly, some of the aircrafts actually flew, some even 20 or 30 feet. It wouldn’t have been as much fun without some great crashes though, and many of the teams were willing to wreck months of hard work just to give the crowd that pleasure. None of the planes were salvageable, but the teams didn’t seem to care, some of them smoking celebratory cigars after landing.

Some of the designs were ridiculous and had nothing to do with flight, like a camel, a mother bird, feeding her chicks, and of course, a pregnant cow, but they were all creative and demonstrated what Red Bull is all about. The first place winner was team Resurrector, who, propelling a casket with wings on the barge, flew a distance of something farther than everyone else, but not far enough to break the American record of 70 ft., and also had a very creative act before their takeoff, which was good with the judges. Second place was Team Believe It or Not.

The first place winner got flying lessons for the whole crew or the cash equivalent. The second place got hangliding lessons or the cash equivalent, and the third place team got skydiving lessons or the cash equivalent.

Red Bull was all good, clean fun until a bunch of angry fans, their brains ravaged by Taurine intoxication, yelled out a bunch of profanities to team Flying Gator Bait, as they brought their aircraft to he barge: The UF mascot, the gator, attacking the UM mascot, Sebastian. They didn’t win. Their flying gator was no match for the Miami intercoastal, especially with all of the wind, and it broke in the water, unsalvageable and unwelcome in Hurricane territory.

It’s hard to know if anyone walked away from FLUGTAG with any valuable lessons, but if Red Bull taught us anything, it’s that cows don’t fly, neither do camels or their toes for that matter, but the miracle of bovine life can be imitated by anyone in a red cape with a set of utters strapped to his stomach and a secret recipe for good lube. The crowd agreed, and gave team Joy of Live, the flightless cow in labor, the people’s choice award for most creativity.

Linda Hoffman can be contacted at l.hoffman@umiami.edu.