First-time skydivers and their tandem instructors circle in the air under parachutes after free-falling at Skydive Snohomish on Harvey Airfield on April 8 in Snohomish.

Thrill-seekers and others head up in planes and hot air balloons

SNOHOMISH — This year’s seasonal boom of daredevils parachuting from planes and colorful hot air balloons flying above the city has kicked off with the recent warm weather.

The year-round recreation businesses pick up in tandem with farmers planting the fields and continue through the harvest.

Skydive Snohomish instructor Kory Simonsen said the cornfield mazes are an hourglass for the busy season. At its start in late spring, the golden grass is short and the paths are clear. By early autumn, the corn is grown and the mazes are ready for fall festivities, he said.

Skydive Snohomish takes anxious thrill-seekers 13,000 feet above Harvey Airfield, packed inside a souped-up Cessna Grand Caravan.

The Travel Channel in 2014 featured Snohomish as one of the world’s top spots to take a plunge. Skydivers get a panoramic view of the Olympic and Cascade mountains, Puget Sound, the Seattle skyline and the pastoral Snohomish River Valley.

“The views are awesome,” said Sam Dronenburg , of Redmond, after landing her first skydive on Friday. “I was very nervous. But a roller coaster is much scarier.”

Last year, Skydive Snohomish introduced 6,000 first-timers to the sport. With rookies and a following of avid skydivers, the company counts about 15,000 jumps a year.

Skydiving draws people from all over the world to Snohomish. Some have jumped to celebrate special occasions such as getting engaged, beating cancer or turning 98, said Elaine Harvey , who runs the business with her husband, Tyson.

“Within those milestones, you find people from all walks of life,” she said. “It opens your eyes to look past stereotypes and enjoy people for their passion for life.”

She met Tyson, a fourth-generation Harvey aviator, on her first tandem jump in August 2003. Tyson Harvey was her skydiving instructor.

“I fell in love with the sport first, then him,” she said.

His great-grandfather and grandfather, Noble and Eldon Harvey, established the airport in 1944. His parents, Richard “Dick” and Kandace Harvey, took over the business.

Since Dick’s death in 1995, Kandace has run the airfield. Their four children and family help with work at Harvey Field and manage aviation businesses.

Marilyn Harvey owns the Airial Balloon Co., which offers sightseeing at a slower pace above the picturesque countryside.

Veteran pilot Tom Hamilton worked for Airial for 15 years before opening his own business in December. He found peace soaring hot air balloons above serene landscapes after flying U.S. Army attack helicopters during the Vietnam War.

Now, his company, Hot Air Heaven, offers smaller balloons and customized flights for one to three passengers. At Airial, he took up to 10 riders at a time.

Hamilton, a City Councilman since 2010, is confident there’s plenty of business to go around. He said they boost other Snohomish businesses, bringing in about 1,500 people to town every year.

“People come up and make a whole day of it,” he said. “They might go to the shops along 1st Street or have something to eat. It all helps.”

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; anile@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @AmyNileReports.

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