Falling over the skies of Central Illinois for 50 years

By Chad Weber

June 9, 2012 Updated Oct 26, 2013 at 1:26 AM CDT

MINIER, Ill. -- You might not be aware that there is a skydiving club in Central Illinois.

You also might not be aware it is the oldest continually running club in the country, but the parachuters at Illinois Valley Parachute Club, in Minier, have been falling from the skies of Central Illinois for 50 plus years.

Longtime member and student trainer Bill Snyder said it is not easy for clubs to stay open.

"It is very hard for a club to keep going for 50 years," said Snyder. "You run into problems with planes, you run into problems maintaining sufficient membership."

The club offers training for first time jumpers wanting to experience the rush of free fall for themselves.

Snyder said the biggest challenge for newcomers is the mental challenge when confronting the open skies.

"You got to have confidence in yourself," said Snyder. "The equipment you have now a days is so reliable, the training is very good, the aircraft is so good. The risk is really not as severe as most people think."

For fourth time jumper Corey Stenstron, the mental challenge is a non-issue.

"I'm hooked, I am hooked, I'm hooked," exclaimed Stenstron. "It's an awesome sport, it's not for everyone but it is for me."

Stenstron said he hopes to get up to 5000 jumps over the next five years.

Jumping out of planes may not be for everyone, but for the people at Illinois Valley Parachute Club, it is a way of life.

"It's an awesome feeling, peaceful up there, looking over Hopedale and Mackinaw and just being up there with the wind," said Stenstron. "It's the closest your going to get to flying."

For Snyder he said the thrill for him has changed over the years.

"Early on it was really the adrenaline part of it, the sense of accomplishment," said Snyder. "Now there's a huge social component to skydiving as you can tell. Lot of education, lot of training going on that's fun."

Fun the parachuters at Illinois Valley Parachute Club hope will to continue for another 50 years.

The club is open on Saturdays and Sundays and holds training for first time jumpers once a month.

For more information visit ivpc.org.

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