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Saturday, October 17, 1998 -- Fayetteville
New River Gorge Bridge Day Festival

If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?
[More Pictures]

Fayetteville, West Virginia, claims to be the outdoor enthusiasts' mecca of the East Coast. And on Saturday, October 17, no one could dispute this title. Extreme sports is what Fayetteville promises and extreme sports is what it delivered. On an average Fayetteville day, you see many extreme sports from mountain biking to rock climbing to whitewater rafting. And for one day every Fall, Fayetteville pushes the edge of the envelope of extreme by extending this list to include BASE (Building, Antenna, Span/Bridge, and Earth/Cliff) jumping and rappelling from the 876 foot high New River Gorge Bridge. This is the biggest legal BASE jump in the world!

Sometimes they make it look too easy
An estimated 150,000 visitors swarmed to Fayette County to enjoy the show and the one day a year opportunity to catch a still view from on top of the New River Gorge Bridge. During Bridge Day, one side of the bridge is closed to traffic to host the festival on the bridge that surrounds the BASE jumping and rappelling. In recent years, the event has gotten a lot of publicity, and the organizers expected their largest crowd ever. This year over 150 vendors displayed their best novelty goods and crafts to the crowds.

But sometimes the fall can have a harder than desired landing
The biggest excitement, however, was on the east side of the bridge where nearly 400 jumpers lined up from the center of the bridge to take their turn. Most of the jumpers traveled from out-of-state, as the New River Gorge Bridge is the nationally recognized spot for BASE jumping. One person, two people, three people, four... the jumpers, at times, joined forces to enjoy the (approximately) 9 second drop to the New River. The event concluded with a group of twelve jumpers taking the plunge together to break the 11-person World BASE Jumping Record!

It is all about hang time
The jumpers hurled themselves over the edge of the bridge to be gracefully carried by their colorful parachutes to the small landing below. Many, however, were not so lucky to hit the landing pad and, instead, entertained the crowd below with their creative splashes into the New River. There were a few breathtaking moments as several of the jumpers found themselves a little too close to the trees and foliage on the banks of the New River. Extreme sports, of course, get their name for a reason, but on this day, the injuries were minimal.

One bridge, one way down
Meanwhile, while some chose a parachute as their equipment of choice to reach the New River, 200 others donned their best climbing gear to enjoy the trip down by rope. Applications to rappel the bridge went out in May, and a lottery system was used to whittle the 450 applicants down to twenty teams of ten rappellers to take the trip. The rappelling started from a catwalk under the South side of the bridge (to avoid interfering with the jumpers at the center of the bridge) and continued down the climbing ropes the 876 feet to the bottom of the gorge.

Just another BASE jump baptism in the New River
Pictures say a thousand words,and we think the shots we've included will complete this picture of the extreme sport lover's weekend in Fayetteville. And, if you didn't make it to the event this year, the jumpers are already anxiously awaiting their turn to thrill you with their spectacular jumps, vivid costumes and thrilling landings at next year's Bridge Day 99!

Some quick jumps to more BASE jumping on the web: