This Saturday, the insane wackiness of the Red Bull Flugtag will arrive in Portland, Oregon, and while Santa Clara is rarely represented among contestants, this year, there will be one: Brendan Palmer, a member of Team Chicken Run who will be pier-diving with a group of friends, which includes team spokesman Spencer Whyte of Kanata, Ontario, Canada.
Whyte says it took three years for the team to get accepted into the event, but this year finally paid off when the group was granted admission into one of the most bizarre competitions on the planet.
To compete in Flugtag, teams create a size- and- weight-limited flying machine, which is then “flown” off a pier and into the water. While most crafts end up nose-diving into the water below, distance is actually only one-third of the judging criteria. Teams are also scored on creativity and showmanship, which is where Team Chicken Run, named after a film with the same name, believes they’ll excel.
The team will be wearing “costumes to try and reflect the most titular characters from the movie,” says Whyte. “Our pilot will be dressed as the crotchety old Rooster Fowler who manned the cockpit of the chicken barn at the end of the movie, and the rest of the crew will be dressed as other supporting characters, including a special appearance by Mrs. Tweedy, the farm’s tyrannical matriarch. We’ve also put together a bit of a show for the audience before we set flight to try and set the tone for our voyage. Picture the chicken dance mixed with a mambo, and you get the idea. The dance still needs a bit of practice, so hopefully we don’t end up there wandering around like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off.”
Whyte says the team began construction of the craft in May, with the most expensive aspect being the $700 cost to ship it from Ottawa to Portland, and that shipping the craft has been the most difficult part of the process. “The actual construction process was a lot of fun,” he says, “as was putting together the costumes and dance; and the Red Bull team has been incredibly helpful and supportive to us, but distance has always been the biggest issue.”
Team Chicken Run is confident their craft, which will travel 2,639 miles before arriving in Portland today – three days ahead of takeoff – has what it takes to win. “We have a lot of faith in both our plane, as well as our team, so we think we actually have a chance to surprise people and show that chickens really can fly,” says Whyte. “That being said, we realize that a lot of the fun of this competition is the building of the plane, as well as the overall experience of participating in Flugtag, so even if we do end up going belly up the second we have lift off, I think we would walk away just as happy.”
Whyte, Palmer and the rest of Team Chicken Run will test their craft at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 1 at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland.
A blog on www.redbullflugtagusa.com will provide live updates. The event can also be followed live on Twitter, @redbullPDX.