You’ve been to Skydive DeLand, or at least seen those colorful sport canopies floating toward Earth. But did you know that DeLand’s small airport has the highest concentration of parachute-related businesses in the entire world?
At least seven local businesses making, accessorizing or using parachutes are throwing a free open house Saturday, Nov. 9, to show off one of West Volusia’s most thriving industries employing about 500 skilled workers.
The first-ever Parachute Industries of DeLand Expo and Art Show will be free to all comers 1-6 p.m. that Saturday afternoon at the Wayne G. Sanborn Activity Center in Earl Brown Park, 815 S. Alabama Ave. in DeLand. Many of the famous names in sport and military parachutes, harnesses, altimeters and other accessories will be exhibiting.
Largest of these companies is Performance Designs, on International Speedway Boulevard across from the DeLand Municipal Airport. Its 200 employees create both sport canopies and military special forces “square parachutes” in a cavernous facility featuring computer-controlled vacuum tables about 40 feet long with precise laser cloth-cutters.
In addition to these local manufacturers, an art show of skydiving photographs, original paintings and sculpture will be on display.
Featured speaker presentations include skydiving pioneer Bill Booth at 2 p.m. and noted aerial cinematographer Norman Kent at 4 p.m.
Many world-class skydivers have settled in West Volusia, noted the expo’s organizer and nearly lifelong jumper John “Sox” Rostoks of DeLeon Springs. He has collected more than 40 of their gold medals to display in what he calls DeLand’s Golden Galaxy of skydiving champions.
There will also be a celebrity corner with pictures of famous people like Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman who have skydived here.
Another display will center on special military ’chutes designed as complete jump packages for special forces and search-and-rescue units all over the world. These are strong custom designs able to carry the bulky weights of full combat gear, protective vests and weapons for silent small-unit insertions anywhere required, according to Complete Parachute Solutions account executive Morten Pedersen.
This unique expo may be a one-time event, Rostoks noted. He said he’s both skydived and worked in the industry here since the 1970s, and wanted to give something back to the community. At the expo, you are likely to find him near his pride and joy, the Art Show section.