Making a Sport of It—Lincoln Sport Parachute Club Celebrates 60 Years
By Bill Lahman
A hundred years ago, when Leslie Irvin made the first intentional skydive, most people saw parachuting as a stunt and not a sport. Forty years later, a handful of individuals gathered in a home in Lincoln, Nebraska, and started a club with one express purpose: making a sport of it. In fact, they chose to put the word right in the name, the Lincoln Sport Parachute Club. Now, after being in operation for more than 60 years, it is the oldest continuously operating club of its kind in the United States (and likely the world, as well). Because of this monumental accomplishment, the club chose to celebrate in an equally monumental way June 21-23.
The club, which is located in Weeping Water, Nebraska, decided to purchase the airport property and its buildings in 2005. About 10 years later, the club paid off its land contract early and owned the airport free and clear. With that done, it undertook an ambitious building project, building a custom clubhouse that includes a packing mat; bathrooms with showers; a training room, classroom and manifest area; and an area to just hang out in between or after jumps. Club members chipped in and completed a majority of the work themselves, and the building was ready and open for business in March of this year.
Owning the airport meant that LSPC could celebrate the anniversary how it saw fit, and it also had the facilities to host a world-class skydiving event and welcome its guests in style. The club invited friends from years past, and many showed up for the weekend, including some who were part of the club in its first decade. A Twin Otter from the Skydive Spaceland group of drop zones provided the lift capacity for the weekend.
Unfortunately, a difficult weather pattern decided to set up over the Midwest for the weekend. A weird three days unfolded, with each day just like the previous one. It was like the movie “Groundhog Day.” Every morning, there was a thunderstorm with rain ending mid-morning. Although forecasters called for clouds each day, around noon, an area about 5 miles across the top of the DZ would open up and allow jumping to continue into the evening. So, with the exception of some tandem students scheduled for the mornings, event attendees enjoyed plenty of jumping!
For the celebration, the organizers planned a 22-way formation skydive to beat the current 20-way Nebraska State Record for Largest Formation Skydive. The 22 jumpers made three attempts on Saturday once the weather cleared, but all came up short.
On Saturday night, old and new members of the club showed up with their families for a banquet, celebration program and entertainment by a comedian-magician. Many members who helped shape the club in its first decade attended, as did the family of one of the club’s founding members, Shorty Janousek, who passed away in the 1990s. Three current club members—Larry Bartlett, Greg Hladik and Dan Meyers—received their USPA Jump Wings and Freefall Badges from USPA President Chuck Akers at the ceremony. Akers also presented the club with a USPA Certificate of Achievement “in commemoration of the Lincoln Sport Parachute Club, incorporated in 1959, sustained by Marion ‘Shorty’ and Leota ‘Mike’ Janousek and Ken Sisler, and in continuous operation these 60 years, training hundreds of skydivers and producing skydiving champions among them.”
At the end of the program, the club presented longtime member Bartlett with a lifetime membership to the club. The club bestows this honor on those who have spent their entire skydiving careers as members and who have given back to the club in many ways. Bartlett began his skydiving career with LSPC, making his first jumps in January 1970. Three skydiving legends—Cliff Dobson, Leota “Mike” Janousek (representing her husband, the late Shorty Janousek) and Stu Metcalfe—presented Bartlett with the honor. Adding to the specialness of the occasion was the fact that all three presenters had signed Bartlett’s logbook when he was a student in 1970!
By the end of the weekend, the attendees had made many new friendships and rekindled old ones. All were thankful for the opportunity to see just how far the club has come and to witness the strength of the membership that carries on the club’s legacy for the next generation. The Lincoln Sport Parachute Club is a special place and is sure to continue to be for years to come!
About the Author
Bill Lahman, D-24287, has been a member of the Lincoln Sport Parachute Club since 1998, when he started jumping. He’s run several events for the club over the years and spearheaded its 60th anniversary celebration.