Boats filled Johnson’s Bay on Lake Wawasee and the peninsula on Venetian Island was filled with spectators Saturday evening. Many gathered at family, friends and neighbors on nearby channels to see the second Annual Elite Frogs Parachute Team jump at the lake.
The group, formed by Chuck Janicki a former Navy Seal, is comprised of those who have had at least five years experience on the Navy Parachute team, the “Leap Frogs.” Some members of the team have retired from the Navy with over 20 years of service.
Each member is highly qualified in various aspects of skydiving. Combined the team has over 100 years of parachuting experience, together with a total of over 30,000 jumps.
This year the event started around 8 p.m. and went into the evening hours with different aerial acrobats and pyrotechnics but the opening was just as dynamic as last year’s with Andy Crout-Hamel jumping from over 5,000 feet in the air with a 55-pound, three-story high American Flag. The crowd stood with hats removed, hands covering hearts, as the large American flag descended from the sky to the National Anthem. A bi-plane – two jumpers one on another’s shoulders accompanied the first jump.
The main featured aerial acrobatics included a tri-by-side with red smoke streaming from the heels of jumpers. The tri-by-side begins with a tri-plane, jumpers on each others shoulders, then climbing down and attaching a strap with quick release or strapping up and spreading out. The trio performing the tri-by-side have over 30,000 jumps between them. Crout-Hamel, on the left flank, steered the formation.
A variety of music, including patriotic themed songs and of course the various anthems of the Armed Forces, kept the crowd entertained between the jumps. Boaters anchored in Johnson’s Bay waived American Flags during patriotic songs and boat horns sounded in delight for the jumpers.
Retired Command Master Chief Herschel Davis once again returned to Lake Wawasee as the master of ceremonies for the jumps, providing those within earshot of the speaker system information about each of the four members and descriptions of their demonstrations.
Last year’s event netted $15,000. Coordinator R.H. “Bob” Stickle stated “I thought we’d do better,” however he said it’s not about the money but “people need to see what its about … it’s really about raising the level of thought about the American flag, country and service men, not necessarily about raising money or donations.”
Only a few tandem jumps were held this year.
Thoughts are already being formulated for next summer’s Elite Frog event on Lake Wawasee. The date and time will be announced at a later date.