Miracle Treat Day skydive scrubbed
By CHUCK CLEMENT, Staff Reporter
A parachute jump by Gov. Dennis Daugaard and DeLon Mork over Madison was scrubbed on Thursday evening due to low-hanging clouds over the city airport.
Delon Mork (left), owner of the Madison Dairy Queen restaurant, and Gov. Dennis Daugaard get ready to climb into the single-engine aircraft that they and skydiving instructors would have parachuted from on Thursday evening.
The parachute instructors from Skydive Adventures who were supervising the event decided that the clouds were too thick. The team made the decision after the single-engine airplane carrying the group circled the Madison airport for about an hour.
The aircraft landed at about 8:40 p.m., bringing Daugaard, Mork and the skydivers back to the airport terminal. The governor said everyone in the group was ready to jump, but the weather didn't cooperate. At 10,000 feet, the sky was too cloudy over the landing zone to parachute.
"They said the `hole' wasn't big enough," Daugaard said, standing on the tarmac. "We'll try to schedule it again."
Both Daugaard and Mork said they were interested in rescheduling the event at a later date.
According to Daugaard, the group could have tried jumping at a lower altitude, but the skydive instructors had said they would need to open the parachute immediately after leaving the airplane.
Daugaard had agreed to skydive Thursday night, fulfilling a pledge to help raise money for Children's Miracle Network and its affiliated hospitals, but the team decided conditions weren't safe enough. It would have been the first jump for the 60-year-old governor. Mork has skydived over the Madison airport twice before.
Mork was another disappointed team member.
"They told us that the sky was clear enough 2 miles that way," Mork said, pointing toward the north. "But then we would have landed in someone's bean field."
The governor would have jumped in tandem with instructor Dan Spisak of Sioux Falls and Mork would have accompanied instructor Jan Fodness of Sioux Falls. Another parachutist, Jimmy Koens, would have joined the group to record video and shoot still photos of the skydive. Another member of the Skydive Adventures team, Jim Enga, piloted the aircraft.
Daugaard pledged to jump with Madison Dairy Queen owner Mork if the restaurant sold more than 32,000 Blizzard treats during a recent nationwide fund-raiser. The restaurant sold more than 38,000.
When asked why he had agreed to make the jump, Daugaard said that he wanted to support fund-raising efforts for the Children's Miracle Network. CMN provides support for Sanford Children's Hospital in Sioux Falls.
"It's a great cause, and DeLon's a good friend," Daugaard said.
Hundreds of adults and children attended the skydiving event that offered attendees a free pork-loin meal and also featured an air show, hot-air balloons, ultralight aircraft flights, airplane displays, a car show and glider flights.
Crowds have shown up to watch previous skydives after Mork had broken past Miracle Treat Day sales records.
When the governor's wife, Linda Daugaard, was asked whether either of them expected a large crowd at the event, she said no.
"This is a party," Linda Daugaard said. "Had I known that, we would have been here every year."
(The Associated Press contributed to this article.)