Just as the energy drink Red Bull professes, bourbon, too, can give people wings. Countless ideas — both good and bad — tend to surface after few sips of Kentucky’s native spirit. One of the latest, and possibly most bizarre, came when Louisvillian Shawn Clark and his buddies gathered over flights of bourbon and decided bourbon should fly.
The five guys were discussing the upcoming Red Bull Flugtag, which will be held for the first time in Louisville on Saturday, Aug. 27, at Waterfront Park. Flugtag is German for “flying day,” and the event requires teams to design, build and pilot homemade flying machines. Nearly 40 teams will compete Saturday by pushing their contraption off a 22-foot-high flight deck into the Ohio River — and whichever goes the furthest wins (teams also are judged on creativity and showmanship).
The first flugtag was held in Vienna, Austria, in 1991, and since then, more than 100 have taken place around the world.
Clark tells Insider his crew — consisting of himself, Thomas Forsha, Thomas Morrell, Bob Lillie and Chris Brewer — had several brainstorming sessions on what exactly to build. They wanted something that highlighted Kentucky, but ideas like a KFC bucket or a jockey on a horse fell flat. That’s about the time the bourbon kicked in.
“Bob made the connection of ‘a flight of bourbon,’ and as they say, the rest was history,” says Clark. “Most of the crew are longtime bourbon lovers, so it was an easy decision to ride the bourbon craze and go with this theme.”
Once the team was officially selected by Red Bull, they went to work sketching out how to literally make bourbon fly. Clark says it took about three months to plan and assemble their dream machine.
“During this process, I’ve learned a great deal about what it takes to create lift and make crafts fly,” he adds. “It’s been a tremendous amount of time and energy, but worth every second.”
Clark and his crew envisioned a nearly 28-foot-wide, 17-foot-long and 8-foot-tall bourbon barrel complete with wings, wheels and even a little signature Maker’s Mark red wax for effect. Their team goes by the name Bourbon Flight, and their contraption is called the SS Cask Strength.
Louisville is the second U.S. city chosen to host the event this year. Boston held the first one on Saturday, Aug. 20, where Team Flite-Riot took home the gold for soaring 69 feet.
More than 200 applications were submitted for the Louisville competition, and 36 were selected. Of those, only a handful are local. A search through the list of teams reveals some interesting concepts.
A local group by the name of Thrilla in Lou-Villa is paying homage to the Greatest with their aircraft, which is in the shape of a bumblebee and includes a boxing ring. Other interesting team names include Millennial Falcon, When Blofish Fly, The Ville-Ociraptors, Fear and Loathing, The Dukes of Hazzardous and Bacon 2.5.
The Red Bull Flugtag will take place on Saturday, Aug. 27, at Waterfront Park. Admission is free, and gates open at 11 a.m. The first launch is scheduled for 12:15 p.m. Food and drink vendors will be on hand as well.