The Duluth Airshow is a celebration of aviation that brings together aviators and aviation enthusiasts from all over the world and is also the largest event of the year in Minnesota. This event was also the first time in 30 years that the Canadian Snow Birds performed there. The Gold Demonstration Team arrived on Wednesday prior to the Airshow to make some appearances and let the Minnesotans about the great demonstration the team would make later on in the week. Among those was a visit to Superior High School to talk some select science classes on the physics of skydiving and to let them know that their Assistant Principal Bill Punyko would be making a tandem skydive with the Golden Knight’s very own SFC Aaron Figel into the football game that afternoon. The team was excited and ready to go until the plane took off and reality started to set in as the temperature dropped to below freezing. The team knows all too well about the temperature shift from the ground up to altitude but this time the ground temp was in the upper 40s so that made the temp at altitude was about 10 degrees. The team performed a spectacular show for the high school and Mr. Punyko got the ride of his life and a story to share with his students.
On Friday the Knights jumped for the Media Day with the temperatures still in the freezing realm so the team had a chance to prepare for a cold weekend. Along with the cold the team was also thrown another curve ball with high winds and low clouds for the Saturday show so the team had to fall back on their smaller parachutes to still give the audience and awe inspiring show. Sunday the weather was much better as the clouds went away and the winds eased up so the team was able to put on two more wonderful shows and give the airshow audience a warm sense of enjoyment on a very cold day. At the end of the performance the team traveled through the crowd receiving high fives and handshakes all the way over to the recruiting tent where a small gathering of people were already waiting to meet them.
The team had one more stop to make and that was down in the capitol Saint Paul where the team had the honor to jump right into the capitol lawn and with them a very special guest. Lt. Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon made her first skydive, in tandem with SFC Aaron Figel and videographer SFC Jon Ewald, to draw attention to the Community Covenant, a 5-year-old initiative to show support for military families. She said “2,000 Minnesotan military personnel are overseas, including 600 Minnesota National Guard members. Military personnel have earned the promise of full education and full employment,” pledging that the Dayton administration will fulfill that promise.” Governor Mark Dayton, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and military representatives joined Prettner Solon in signing a commitment to support the covenant.
After all that the team still had one more jump to do and that was for the lucky students of Eastview High School. The team was invited to help honor the military just before the Tuesday night soccer game and help recognize some of the Eastview alumni that have served or are still serving. The students in attendance were also lucky enough to see their principal Dr. Randal Peterson receive a tandem ride with SFC Figel and SFC Ewald just before watching the rest of the team bring in the game ball to kick off the night. This trip was one of the most unique for the Gold Team as it brought them closer to public than ever before as well as fulfilling lifelong dreams for a few special people.