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Tater Hill Open draws pilots from across the nation for weeklong competition

A paragliding pilot touches down after a descend from Tater Hill Mountain NC, just south of Mountain City, TN during the 15th Annual Tater Hill Open, Paragliding and Hang Gliding Competition. The weeklong event saw dozens of pilots of all skill levels enjoying the comradery of fellow pilots, the hospitality of the locals, and the beauty of the region. Photo by Tamas Mondovics

By Tamas Mondovics
Editor

While the anticipated forecast was a bit questionable for the remainder of the week, the dozens of paragliding pilots ascended on Tater Hill NC for the 15th Annual Tater Hill Open, Paragliding and Hang Gliding Competition, could not ask for a better start. Blues skies and beautiful scenery welcomed the pilots and their families to the competition, held on Tater Hill Mountain just minutes south of Mountain City, hosted by the event organizer and director Bubba Goodman.

“This is a great event, and even during theses unprecedented times, we are excited to be able to host the pilots for this year’s competition,” Goodman said. 

One such pilot showing off his skills this week is Taylor Holland, who has joined the event for the fourth time in as many years. Following his first fly and perfect landing on Monday, Holland was clearly in his groove, ready to complete the week-long tourney.

“Today was a great day at Tater Hill,” he said as the day came to a close. “Tater is a magical place to fly. I’ve been coming to this competition for four years, and I’ve fallen in love with the area.”

Commenting on the hospitality and amenities offered by the host and the region, Holland emphasized that a number of the pilots are camping up the mountain, which adds to the trip’s experience.

“Campfires, past stories, and lots of talk about the day’s conditions are all on the roster,” he said.

Fly Tater Hill is reportedly not the most competitive tourney that most of its participants attend, but unlike others in the country, pilots of all skill levels can compete on a level playing field, including new pilots who can learn from the more experienced.

“The experienced pilots can feel like they’re old pros fielding all the questions,” Holland said.

As for Goodman, the event host, and organizer, the pilots unanimously agreed “is a stellar human, always helping out new pilots, and encouraging the group to visit the local businesses.” Last year Goodman saw 40 and 50-mile paragliding flights from Tater Hill during the first week in August. The elevation at Tater is around 5000’ ASL, so it offers a unique chance for foot launch flying on the East Coast.

“Competition scoring is handicapped, so everyone has a chance to win,” Goodman said, adding, “Our focus is on newer and upcoming pilots who want to learn or improve their cross-country skills.”

Added benefits include the Tater Hill Weather Station that provides weather and wind information updated every 15 minutes. Real-time conditions can often be very different from the forecast, so most of the time, calling Goodman is the best way to check if it’s flyable.

Under recommendations from the CDC and other government agencies, Tater Hill Flight Park is taking various precautions this week to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19 throughout the Tater Hill Open. All visitors and participants are required to wear a mask or face covering, abide by all park rules pertaining to social distancing, and sign a COVID-19 waiver before visiting the park.

Showing his appreciation as he has done in the pats, Holland shared his take on this year’s event. “I want to thank all the locals for your hospitality and for letting us enjoy your stunning countryside. This is my favorite place to fly.”

For more information about this week’s competition, please visit FlyTaterHill.com, or call Goodman at (828) 773-9433.