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Published August 14 2011

Weather cooperates to bring big crowd to Fargo Airsho

FARGO - In addition to being military veterans, Ed Boch and Bob Saumur are air show veterans, having attended shows all over the country, including the biggies in Oshkosh, Wis., and Dayton, Ohio.

The 66-year-olds from Coon Rapids, Minn., said the Fargo AirSho measured up nicely Saturday.

“The show parts are equivalent,” Boch said.

“It’s worth the drive,” Saumur said, joking, “The weather committee is excellent here.”

Temperatures held below 80 degrees, a cool wind blew lightly from the north and blue skies dotted with puffy clouds gave spectators an ideal backdrop for the aerial performances.

“It’s perfect, just perfect,” said AirSho Committee co-chairman Darrol Schroeder.

The air show continues today with a similar National Weather Service forecast: sunny with a high near 82 and a south wind between 5 and 10 mph.

AirSho officials anticipated record attendance, and Saturday’s crowd didn’t seem to disappoint.

“I think it’s a record, probably in excess of 20,000,” co-chairman Dick Walstad said.

An hour before the gates opened at 9 a.m., a line of people about 200 feet long stood outside waiting to get in, Schroeder said.

“I’ve never seen that before, so that tells me it’s going to be a good day,” he said.

Here’s a look at some of the stories and attractions from Saturday’s show.

‘Strongman’ sets record

Hundreds cheered on Mark “Strongman” Kirsch as he successfully pulled a semitrailer carrying a Fargo-made Case-IH 450 Quadtrac tractor for a length of 100 feet.

Kirsch said the 107,000-pound load is a new world record for the truck pull.

Spectators gave him high fives, got his autograph and took pictures with the 6-foot-4, 315-pound Kirsch after he finished the pull.

“It was heavy. It was hard,” he told the crowd as he caught his breath.

The 29-year-old from Seattle didn’t want to miss breaking his “old” record – set Wednesday at West Acres mall – so he had five people ride on the Titan Machinery semitrailer.

A few factors added to the feat’s difficulty, he said. The surface had a slight incline, it was asphalt instead of concrete and, unlike the KC-135 Stratotanker he pulled on July 4, the semitrailer has more wheels and axle friction to overcome, he said.

“Every step, you can feel the blood in your legs,” he said. “You just have to push through it.”

Kirsch weighed 190 pounds when he began strength training seven years ago, he said.

“I wanted to just get strong,” he said. “Then I wanted to get really strong.”

He said he plans to try to set another record during today’s air show.

Pilot gets homecoming

David Brynteson vividly remembers the glow of the afterburner and the smell of burning jet fuel as an F-4 Phantom screamed over his 6-year-old head at the Fargo AirSho.

“That was definitely the coolest thing I’d ever seen,” he said.

It sparked a love of flying, and on Saturday the 1990 Fargo South High graduate was back at the AirSho – only now as the pilot of one of two F-15E Strike Eagles on display.

“To be able to come back is one of the goals and dreams of my career,” he said.

Brynteson, a star athlete at South, spent much of Saturday catching up with family, friends and high school teammates such as Tony Satter, who played quarterback at North Dakota State. Brynteson played his college football at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

After earning his wings and completing fighter training, Brynteson served at Air Force bases in Alaska and several other states. He also has flown overseas in support of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

He’s now director of operations for the 391st Fighter Squadron, the “Bold Tigers,” at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho.

The F-15, with its air-to-air and air-to-ground capabilities, wide array of armaments and ability to fly long missions, is the most in-demand fighter jet among U.S. commanders in Afghanistan, he noted.

“This is the premier jet that’s fighting the war right now,” he said.

Brynteson said he spent about 18 months coordinating this weekend’s air show appearance.

“It’s fun to have a little homecoming,” he said.

Interactive sets popular

For those who wanted to do more than just watch the performances and look at aircraft, the military’s interactive displays drew a lot of attention Saturday.

Jeff Ladner of Fargo and his 8-year-old daughter, Olivia, climbed inside a moving, windowless Navy capsule that took its 12 passengers through a virtual mission, putting them aboard a submarine, in an FA-18 Hornet and with Navy SEALs.

“Gives you goose bumps,” Ladner said of the firepower demonstrated during the six-minute ride.

Robbie Kayser, who works for the company that runs the simulator for the Navy, said it averaged about 100 people per hour.

“We’ve been slammed since we got here,” he said.

Young people also tested their skills at the Air National Guard’s “Rise to the Challenge” Tour, making its first appearance at the Fargo AirSho.

The station offers seven challenges that test hand-eye coordination, mechanical skills, logic reasoning and other aptitudes.

“As a recruiter … we kind of know who would be a good candidate to talk to,” said Master Sgt. Troy Krabbenhoft of the 119th Wing in Fargo.

Ben Rage, 20, of Moorhead, a student at the North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, landed at No. 7 on the tour’s leader board after acing the mechanical test, which involves removing and reconnecting hoses to a jet engine. His brother, Will Rage, 15, who plays fullback, breezed through the rope climb.

“I’ve thought about it,” Will said of joining the military.

Of course, as popular as the displays seemed to be, when the six FA-18 Hornets fired up their engines and the rest of the crowd migrated toward the spectator area, there was no debating who the stars of the show were.

“It doesn’t get any better than the Blue Angels,” Saumur said.

Click here to read more on the Fargo Airsho

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528