When Sun-n-Fun was Really Fun.

Builders,

Sun N Fun is the second largest airshow in the country, and it has been around for decades. It is held every spring in Lakeland Florida. Today it has been transformed into a Walt Disney style family spectator event, but long ago, it was the bastion of experimental aviation, and a ritualistic gathering of original ultralight characters.

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Unlike today, where in the name of “make it nice, inoffensive and character free” airshows are promoted with images of yuppie families driving imported minivans to squeaky clean (and dull) events, There was a time where some events were actually fun for real people in aviation. The WW standard for “Fun” is a simple question: Would Pappy Boyington think this was entertaining? 

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I attended every single Sun-n-fun from 1989-2015, I stayed all week at most of them. There was a golden period, now gone for a decade, never to return, where the Ultralight people easily would have met Pappy Boyington’s nocturnal approval. While there was an official Ultralight party every year, the whole week was a series of great evenings with the characters who made up the vibrant world of Ultralights.

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Above, witness a historical aviation artifact of the first order, A one Gallon container for “Muzzle Loader” , a volatile moonshine made by the legendary Chuck Slusarczyk ( who is in the EAA hall of Fame)  The jug  is carefully preserved in my hangar, awaiting the day when the horrible trend trying to make everything ‘nice’ is reversed, and this jug can take its rightful place in the EAA museum.

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Muzzle Loader was so potent it would take the bottom out of a white styrofoam cup in 5 seconds, yet it was willingly consumed by hundreds of revelers at the Ultralight parties in the 1990s. Chucks rock band, complete with background singers in choir robes, would hammer out classic covers like “Sweet Home Alabama”  and originals like the “Zooming'” song.  Most people know I very rarely drink anything at airshows. People guess at the reason, buy its this simple: nothing today could hold a candle to an evening lead by Chuck Slusarczyk, so there really isn’t much point in trying.

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Above, screwed to my hangar wall, an official sign for one of the later parties. At the early ones the beer was free, provided by a local distributor. Lakeland is in Polk county, a particularly hard core blue collar, place that breeds a very strong party mentality. The Ultralight party was known for attracting dozens of Polk county’s most fun women, many of whom would be there as groupies year after year.

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Muzzle Loader is good for you, just read the label.  One year I coined the phrase “Muzzle Loader – Liquid Dignity Remover by Slusarczyk” and Gus Warren printed very popular shirts which bore this motto.

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Yes, some things need a warning label.

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Different Years came in different flavors: this was a 2001 jug, that year Chuck made 17 gallons of “Black Bury Falver” , which was patterned after a family 1927 recipe.

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Above, My Pietenpol at the last hours of Sun n Fun 1996. From L to R, Gus Warren, Steve Upson and a much younger version of me. The smiles are strained, we had spent the previous night at the Ultralight party. The Photo was taken by EAA’s Mary Jones, who had the great fortune of being close friends with many of the original 1980s Ultralight people. I consider myself fortunate to have had fun with them in the 1990s, today, this type of fun is just a memory from a different era. 

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Wewjr.

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