Quincy locals reminisce about the World Free Fall Convention

Quincy, Illinois, is known as a lot of things– the Gem City, and a river town on the Mississippi River.

However, Quincy was once known as the host for the World Free Fall Convention.

The event started in 1986 at the Quincy Regional Airport and continued there until 2001 when it moved to Rantoul, Illinois.

Larry Robertson, an Adams County native, attended the event every year.

“I enjoyed seeing the different types of aircrafts that carried the parachutists,” Robertson said. “I love aviation, so anything dealing with that was enjoyable.”

Robertson never wanted to skydive himself, but he loves to fly in planes and would have enjoyed having that opportunity.

He also recalled listening to live music, taking in the party atmosphere, and the diversified group of people that attended the event.

Robertson’s wife, Cheri, who is also an Adams County native, remembers attending the World Free Fall Convention in its first year.

“It was really fun to watch all of the different colors of parachutes open in the sky and glide down,” Robertson said. “I was sad to see it end. Lots of people from around the world made it an annual event that they attended. It felt like Quincy had truly lost a good event when they moved it out of the area. It was really interesting to see different cultures all right here in Quincy.”

While the couple talked of fun memories regarding the World Free Fall Convention, they also mentioned some of the negatives.

“I think that as years went by, I started hearing a lot of negative comments about the free fall convention,” Cheri Robertson said. “A lot of people in the city of Quincy felt like laws were not obeyed or enforced at the World Free Fall Convention.”

Lori Miller attended the event when she was in grade school.

“My great grandmother used to take my mother and I to watch the air formations and free-falls after church,” Miller said. “We’d eat lunch in the airport’s restaurant and make an afternoon of it. I was kind of awestruck by the skydiver’s bravery and mesmerized by the sky full of colorful parachutes. My favorite memory would just be getting to see the sky fill with moving rainbows. Your neck would hurt from just staring up for so long to take it all in.”

Miller said she didn’t want to take part, and heard some horror stories about the event. 

“We frequently heard about accidents and deaths on the news,” Miller said. “I also had an uncle who had a farm near the airport who often mentioned how parachuters went off course near his property and were sometimes hurt in the process.”

The World Free Fall Convention included sky surfing, naked jumps, and raft jumping.

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