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3-2-1… Blast off! GARLO 2015

On Saturday, June 27th, Central Illinois Aerospace (CIA) hosted their 26th annual Launch-and-Lunch at Dodds Park in Champaign, IL. The event, dubbed GARLO (Great Annual Rocket Launch of) 2015, is one that has its history rooted in the friendships of the ’60’s and ’70’s. Since 1992, the shared interests of this group of friends has been one of the community’s most exciting events.

As member Jonathan Sivier explains, “We were a group of kids that enjoyed firing model rockets, and always had a big launch event around July 4th. When the CIA club itself formed in 1992, we decided to make the event more official and created GARLO.”

To participate in GARLO, you don’t need to be a member of the CIA (and yes, there’s some fun behind that naming convention!). In fact, many participants this past weekend were newcomers. They were greeted with free rockets provided so that they could have their first experience.

“Many of our members are older,” explained Lon Westfall, another CIA member who returned to flying rockets in 2002 after a hiatus in college. “We’re really wanting to get younger people interested to help carry the activity into the future.”

In order to fly rockets, CIA coordinates with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to get clearance for varying heights. For the event on Saturday, clearance was granted up to 4000 feet. But strong winds forced participants to use lower-powered motors to prevent rockets from drifting into busy streets and surrounding neighborhoods once parachutes deployed.

Aside from the wind, however, it was a beautiful sunny day at just the right temperatures, making turn-out pretty strong from the time things got fired up shortly after 10 a.m. until just about 45 minutes before the event ended at 4 p.m.

Below, Mackenzie, 11, gets ready to launch her rocket.This was her first GARLO. Her favorite part about rockets? “I like seeing how high they go.”

Below, a rocket drag race!

Below, a successful parachute deployment.

Below, some parachutes were… less successful. All in the name of science (and fun), though!

Aside from having this big yearly launch, CIA also hosts other launch events twice per month as well as regular monthly meetings to discuss the finer points of rocketry and rocket building. For the truly big launches that soar into the clouds, the club uses farm fields after harvest. As William Carney, member since 1999, said, “If not for farmers, we wouldn’t be flying big rockets at all.” Additionally, the club helps to provide workshops to area summer camps and other youth groups, all in the name of science and education. And fun. We can’t forget the fun. These are rockets.

If you’d like to learn more about the CIA or want to get involved, check out their website here.

Many thanks to the Champaign Park District for the use of their great park for the event.

All photos taken by Stephen N. Kemp.

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