MHGA - In the Beginning

Author: Co-Founder, Fred Permenter

Originally Written in 1990, Updated in 1996

The majority of members, particularly the newer ones, may not know the who's and the why's of how our fine association began. At this 30th year anniversary of MHGA's first meeting, let me step back in time to give you some perspective into how the MHGA was launched.

It all started back in 1977 when a group of fledgling pilots in this area - like Ed Tom, Richard "Gweedo" Hays, Bob "Beard" Stilwell, Jerry Lanham, Paul Adamez, Tom Jones and myself - started hanging out together. Back then we were flying everything from Standards to an Easy Riser (a peculiar bi-wing apparatus). We made literally hundreds of flights at the ski hill at Oregon Ridge in those early years. We helped each other through the rough times - bumps, bruises and a few broken bones, earned in those early and quite experimental training flights. Over time we began to develop our skills, watching and learning from one another, but oh to know then what we know now! During our early phase, we questioned how we could carry on our sport and stay together to share our knowledge - even though we still had a lot to learn ourselves.

One night during a bull session, sitting over a few beers, Paul Adamez, Jerry Lanham and I began to discuss plans for a flying trip. Downing quite a few more beers, we began to toss around an idea to organize a club for pilots in our area.

With mounting phones bills over the next few days between the three of us, arrangements were discussed for a meeting to be held at the Oregon Ridge Lodge. After all, where else should we meet? This was the birth place of hang gliding for the majority of us. With a place and time finalized, all we had to do was sell our idea for a club to the other pilots.

Every weekend throughout October and November Jerry, Paul and I passed out a flyer:

Want to form a Hang Gliding Club?

If so, come to the Oregon Ridge Lodge

Thursday, December 6, 1979, at 7:00 p.m.

Climbing up and down the hill I was encouraged to see how much interest was shown by the other pilots. One cold November day, I approached a beginner pilot brand new to the hill and was enthusiastically greeted with,Hi!, I'm Vic Ayers, what's ya got there? Handing him the flyer was like handing candy to a baby. His eyes lit up and he started to spout out things like "fantastic!" Which was his favorite word. "I could make up the constitution for you guys..." and on and on he went.

A few nights before the first gathering of the flock, Vic called me up to say everything was ready - the first draft of the Constitution, the agenda, and so forth. After talking with Vic, I called Paul and Jerry and suggested letting Vic run the first meeting since he had such a good grasp of the rules of etiquette for initiating a new club's meeting - something for which none of us had any experience. Jerry and Paul agreed, and after informing Vice of the idea, he humbly accepted.

Come December 6th, people starting dribbling into the Lodge early in the evening. I was quite surprised as I glanced about the Lodge and counted 45 people present. The meeting had not yet got under way and people were standing or sitting, talking, shifting about in their seats, not having any idea of what to do to get things under way. Vic walked to the front of the room, took things in hand and soon had everybody mesmerized with his expertise and wit.

The first subject was of course, Do we need a club? Yes! came the reply. Okay, Vic asked, What do we want to accomplish? Have fun! Parties, camping/flying trips, further our skills through safety and knowledge. Advance the sport in Maryland, and keep our gathering on the right path to meet our area member's needs.

The particulars of running an organization came next who we should elect to run the club. Until we could finalize by a nomination/vote a permanent board of directors, Vic was unanimously voted to temporarily hold the Office of Prez, Fred Permenter, Vice Prez Doreen Adamez and Mary Conver, secretary; Sue Jeffery, Treasurer; and Jerry Lanham, Flight Director. (Later everyone was voted into these positions.)

Several suggestions were kicked around for what we should call ourselves, such as Cloud Dancers, and Wind Riders. Vic noted that to gain instant recognition with county officials and the like, the organizations name should state who we are and what we do. With that, the Maryland Hang Gliding Association was promptly voted upon. The club was born. A group of pilots with the same goals. The work, and fun, began.

The MHGA has done some great things since those first humble beginnings. The club, its pilots and their skills has matured. We've opened and maintained sites, taught new pilots, held and participated in competitions, and flown around the country.

We've sponsored an uncountable number of skill advancing seminars, raised funds when needed, and had some great parties. The MHGA donated over $3,500 to the World Team in 1983 through an unprecedented fundraiser, “The Blast”, a larger donation than any other club in the USA. For another year’s World Team the MHGA raised $500. Our next World Team donation was $1,044, raised through the stupendous Larry Tudor Seminar in 1988.

Our clubs sponsored the 1991 High Rock Grand Re-Opening Party: a celebration of return when the efforts of the High Rock Preservation Group regained flight after the launch had been closed a year. A hardworking MHGA Board of Directors organized the outrageously successful 1995 High Rock 20th Anniversary party.

We’ve participated in major air shows and sponsored numerous fly-ins to Tennessee, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Florida and New York. The MHGA has had four Regional Directors rise from our ranks: Vic Ayers, Bill Crist, Bill Bennett, and Geoff Mumford.

Most of all, the club has given us camaraderie. Like any club, we've had our peaks and lows. I'd like to see us regain that kind of early enthusiasm.