All-woman skydiving team to descend on Water Follies

Skydivers with pink and blue parachutes will descend over Water Follies spectators this week.

The first to jump will carry a 30-by-60-foot American flag, and her three teammates will follow, with two planning to land in the Columbia River.

The Misty Blues, an all-women skydiving team, are making their first-ever appearance at the Water Follies Air Show on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The team will perform about 11:45 a.m. each day. Returning performers include Lt. Col. John Klatt, who will be flying a new plane, the MX-S, each day about 12:40 p.m. The complete air show runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday through Saturday.

Cindy Irish of Michigan, owner of the Misty Blues, said she and three other skydivers will let loose their parachutes shortly after jumping from a Cessna 182 about 5,000 feet above ground.

The crowd will have just enough time to "ooh" and "ahh" before Irish and the others reach the ground, ready for what Irish says is more important than the act itself -- interacting with the spectators.

That's part of what Irish said drew her to the Misty Blues about 15 years ago. A big part of the world's only all-women skydiving demo team is showing young children, especially girls, how much is within their reach. For all of the women, skydiving is a hobby, and they have professional careers. Irish is an accounting consultant.

"You can do anything that you want to do," she said.

Skydiving is something Irish, who loves heights, said she always wanted to try. After the first jump, she was hooked. Now she has more than 2,000 jumps under her belt in the past 20 years, and like the other seven members of the team, holds state or all women's records in skydiving.

Allison Harper, who also will be one of the Misty Blues visiting the Tri-Cities, said she didn't even think of skydiving as an option until she found a college club while pursuing her master's degree. She has since gotten her doctorate in exercise physiology and is a professor at the University of Rhode Island.

"It's a very freeing feeling," she said. "You are not confined with the ground."

And the stomach-churning roller coaster feeling people expect doesn't happen, said Harper, who joined the team four years ago. It feels more like floating.

She is approaching 1,000 jumps in the seven years since she started skydiving.

Seeing the crowd's reaction is something that Harper said gives her an amazing feeling. And sharing skydiving with the crowd is a highlight.

She remembers at one of her first air shows, a little girl asked, "Can boys skydive too?"

Skydiving is something a wide range of people can enjoy. While Harper is 30, she said she has jumped with people in their 70s and 80s. Not everyone who enjoys skydiving is the stereotypical risk-taking daredevil, she said. In general, 18 is the minimum age requirement for skydiving.

"If you think you will like it, you will love it," Irish said. "It is very addicting."

For more information about the Misty Blues, go to www.mistyblues.com.

-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com