Distance was hard to come by, but enthusiasm was in full supply Saturday as amateur pilots riding homemade gliders cast themselves into the Mississippi River in St. Paul for the Red Bull Flugtag competition.
Thousands of spectators watched from boats on the river or on either bank as 38 teams launched their flying contraptions off a 30-foot platform over the water.
As is typical for a Flugtag event, many fell straight into the water. But a few managed to catch a little air.
The winning team — "Spooners' Revenge" from Minneapolis — traveled 54 feet en route to claiming the title that's also awarded based on creativity and showmanship. The team's glider was based on Minneapolis' iconic "Spoonbridge and Cherry" sculpture.
Spooners' Revenge had finished second when Flugtag was last held in St. Paul, in 2010.
This year's runner-up was "Ferris Bueller's Take Off" from St. Paul.
Among other teams, Patrick Kelly of Minneapolis rode a craft shaped like a giant toe and was dressed as the Dude from the film "The Big Lebowski."
"It was quite an experience. You just go, 'Welp, I’m going,'" he said of leaping off the platform. "There's no choice, there's no turning back. All that work just all fades away as you fall and go, 'This is amazing.'"
None of the teams came close to the record flight of more than 250 feet, set at a California contest in 2013.
Saturday's field included 23 teams from the Twin Cities and eight from elsewhere in Minnesota, along with teams from North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Kentucky.
Flugtag means "Flying Day" in German.