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Of all the things we’re known for at the Wisconsin Skydiving Center, there’s one that really, truly sets us apart: group skydiving. The absolutely unique way we host group gatherings is something WSC has been known for during the last two decades, and it’s something we’re very proud of.
On any given weekend, you can sidle up to the enormous picnic area and meet the denizens of whatever community has decided to call WSC home for the day. Invariably, there will be games and kids and blankets and lunch on the grass. Food will be heaping the picnic tables, and people will be sprawled out and chattering happily in the plentiful shade. The 80-foot porch that runs along the hangar will be a hub of deep conversation. Someone will be firing up WSC’s gas grill, and a few people will be sitting with binoculars in one hand and a beer in the other. Often, they stay for the whole day even if they aren’t jumping – and when the staff is done, we join them for the traditional cold beer at sunset to celebrate the end of the day. Yep: It’s that kind of energy.
We host family reunions, small businesses, big businesses, churches, charities, students and veterans for group skydiving. We have seen three generations of the same family jumping together. We host company outings and team-building events. We help plan wedding proposals and anniversary parties – and parties who have no other particular reason than to celebrate life.
To understand why so many folks choose to make their annual get-together a group skydiving shindig – and host it with us – you need to know what we do so differently. Some groups, after all, have been making their annual pilgrimage to WSC for more than a decade and a half. The difference is that our unique “group mentality” springs from the hearts and values of our founders: Bo Babovic and Alex Kolacio, the husband-and-wife team that own and operate WSC. (Spoiler alert: It’s all about soul.)
“No matter what you do in life, everything boils down to people,” Bo explains, smiling. “And people are our specialty here. Over the years, we realized three things: one, that people love doing things together, especially stuff that’s scary and challenging and they need each other’s support. Two: that doing that kind of thing makes the group – and the people – stronger. Three: everything is better with food and a cold brew in your hand – after jumping, of course. So we started encouraging people to do just that.”
“We encourage nervous people to join the ground school even if they have no intention of jumping,” he adds. “It’s an intentionally open ground school. And we give them a funny fair warning that – after seeing what’s going on, feeling the energy, seeing the smiles and the post-jump afterglow – they might be unable to resist trying it themselves.”
That seed can only be planted by great, insightful ground schools – and that’s one of Bo’s personal favorite parts of the process. That’s not surprising, as he’s a psychology major, a lover of philosophy, and a 42-year skydiver. (He has a lot to share.)
“During that training, we take them deep into the territory of why we jump out of airplanes,” Bo explains. “We lead them into the psychology of skydiving. We talk all about fear management and conquering your fear rather than denying it. The goal is to make the ground school experience awesome, fun and inspirational – just good energy that puts the whole skydive into a different perspective. We really go deep into the meaning of the otherwise senseless act of jumping out of the airplane. This is very unique to us at WSC.”
The sense of openness goes beyond the group classroom experience, of course. In fact, there aren’t any “classrooms” at all – at least, not in the typical sense. Once you pass through the great big doors into the WSC hangar, you immediately notice that it operates – quite idiosyncratically, among dropzones – like an open kitchen. The areas for reception, aircraft and parachute maintenance, packing and rigging are all open for curious observation.
Such emphasis on openness makes the dropzone feel like home, and the result is unique. For example: there are tandem students who have returned to WSC fifteen times over the course of as many years. These jumpers have no desire to get certified. Some of these call the pilgrimage their “annual purifying experience.” The WSC team calls them “family.”
Family, of course, is about personal stories. Take Anna Mae, for instance.
“Anna Mae is one of our celebrities,” Bo laughs. “She’s a cancer survivor. She has been coming to us for ten years now. Every year, she comes back and makes a skydive or two to celebrate life. She’s in her 80s now. She always brings loads of people along with her.” Bo laughs. “I have no idea how somebody can actually know that many people; it’s amazing. She tells me she’s scared every time she jumps – but she jumps every time, and she loves it, every time. She is such a strong character.”
“They all jump,” Bo enthuses. “Mother and father – his wife, sisters, brothers, their wives and kids – the whole family. When they come in, they set up a table with photographs of him, and every year they add to the table a new series of photos from every year’s event. It melts our hearts, too, every time, how much this whole thing means to them and also to us.”
“They cook for two days prior to the event,” he continues, “And then they don’t just feed their group, but the staff, the jumpers, the spectators… whoever is there that day. The spread of food is incredible. Warmers, crock pots, coolers… there’s hardly enough room for all of it. One of the brothers will just keep walking circles around the hangar and hassling everybody to make sure they eat; packing up plates to send to the pilots.” That might sound incredible, but Bo’s not surprised.
“It’s that Midwestern heart we have here,” Bo explains. “That down-to-earth, real, authentic, connected, no-BS, beautiful Midwestern heart.”
“What we do here is not just ‘group skydiving,’” Bo insists. “We offer a fantastic bonding experience on every level. I don’t care who you are – a skydive gets your attention, and sharing that brings you closer as human beings. That intimacy that we all crave, we find in skydiving. It breaks down all these barriers that we have built for whatever reason, and releases the floodgate of emotions and closeness so that togetherness can open up. It’s truly amazing. I believe that there are two things of true value in life: people and experiences. We offer both.”
Join us today for an unforgettable skydiving experience – whether that’s with your family, friends or alone. When you’re here, you’re family.
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