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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Amateur aviators take a dive

If you want to watch strange, costumed characters take a crack at flying strange, garish contraptions, this event is for you. It’s called a “Flugtag” — pronounced floog-tog. That means “flying day” in German. The spectacle looks more like an excuse to party hearty and laugh.

This European-bred event, launched in 1991 in Austria, is coming to Portland on July 31 as part of a three-city U.S. tour.

A Flugtag works like this: Teams of up to six people build human-powered flying machines — and we use the word “flying” loosely. Some just “plunge.”

With one “pilot” (read crash victim) aboard, team members shove the craft off a 25-foot ramp into a body of water, which in Portland will be the Willamette River at Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

Organizers say the teams actually spend about two months designing and building these contraptions, which must be less than 30 feet wide and weigh no more than 450 pounds. Entries are judged on creativity, showmanship and distance.

Distance? What, in inches? Actually, in the 20 Flugtags to date, the record stands at 195 feet.

Twenty-seven teams, mostly from the Northwest, will compete in the Rose City. One of the teams is comprised of Rathdrum, Post Falls and Spokane residents.

You might wonder how many people turn up to watch squirrels, dragons and rhinos fly. That record is 250,000, in Warsaw, Poland, in 1999.

In Portland, gates open at 11 a.m., with the first flight scheduled to take off at 1:03 p.m. Yes, one-oh-three.

Information: (The event’s official name is Red Bull Flugtag because the founder of the Red Bull energy drink dreamed this up.)

Paragliding over Vancouver Island

Pretend you’re 007 paragliding over mountains and islands to escape assassins.

Sound familiar? That scenario comes close to a James Bond adventure. In “The World Is Not Enough,” our intrepid agent skies down a mountain to escape assassins flying parahawks (those propeller-powered snowmobiles attached to parachutes).

You, too, can fly high. But never fear, the guys at Vancouver Island Paragliding don’t just strap you to a paraglider and toss you off a cliff. Instead, you’ll get strapped to an instructor for a tandem ride high over Vancouver Island, Victoria, the Gulf Islands, the Malahat Mountains and wherever else you desire.

Cost is about $112 U.S. for the tandem ride. Flights last from 15 to 30 minutes after a lesson in paragliding.

Details: (250) 886-4165;;

New golf gem in Victoria

Several years ago, a bunch of National Hockey League players decided to build their own golf course and they turned to the best man in the game, Jack Nicklaus. He and son Steve designed this summer playground just outside Victoria, B.C.

The beautiful and challenging Bear Mountain Golf & Country Club, in its first season, is a candidate for Best New Course in Canada in major magazine polls.

The course and housing project sit atop a 1,100-foot mountain. The unique 19th hole (yes, there’s an extra hole) is a stunning par 3 on a cliffside ledge with views of the entire provincial capital. I dare you to check out the course Web site — you’ll drool.

Another 18-hole Nicklaus design is scheduled to open this fall. Green fees climb up to $150 U.S.

And just who were those hockey players? Len Barrie and Mike Vernon, with investments from Ryan Smith, Rob Neidermeyer and Trevor Kidd, to name a few.

Information: (866) 391-6100;

Other great golf in B.C.

From the “Did you know?” Department: British Columbia is home to more than 180 golf courses. The province recently earned the moniker “Undiscovered Golf Destination of 2004” by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators, beating out Oregon, Pennsylvania, Costa Rica, Austria and a host of other countries.

The operators evaluate the attractiveness of both the region and courses; golf course quality and accessibility; standard of accommodations; value for money; speed of play; and climate.

BC’s Okanagan Valley and Rockies regions both hold scenic wonders with tough risk-and-reward courses. My favorites and recommendations: Trickle Creek, St. Eugene Mission, Radium, Eagle Ranch and Greywolf along the Rockies, and, in the Okanagan Valley, Predator Ridge, Harvest, Gallagher’s Canyon and both the Bear and the Quail at the Okanagan Golf Club — gems all.

Information: 800-HelloBC, and

Happenings at Maryhill

“ The concert season at the Maryhill Winery Amphitheater kicks off on July 24 with the Temptations. Hootie and the Blowfish follow on July 30, with Don Henley on Aug. 6. More concerts will be announced later. Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster ( or at the winery, which looks out on the Columbia River and Oregon near Goldendale, Wash. Winery information: (877) MARYHILL (627-9445);

“ The Maryhill Museum of Art opens “A Passion for Plants: Before and After Lewis & Clark” on Saturday. The exhibit features objects and artworks celebrating the 45 native plants that the explorers documented on their journey through the Northwest in 1805-06, including photographs of their herbarium sheets, plant study specimens and historic Native American items decorated with or fabricated from those plants. One of the artifacts is a Klickitat beaded bag from around 1880. The exhibit will remain up until Nov. 15.

The museum also offers a café, picnic grounds, outdoor sculpture and roaming peacocks. It’s next to the winery. Details: (509) 773-3733;

Regional events

“ Heritage Days, July 23-25, Columbia Falls, Mont. This gateway town to Glacier National Park offers a family celebration with rodeos, a parade, street dance, craft fair, farmers’ market, 3-on-3 basketball tournament and more. (406-751-4756)

“ Vancouver International Comedy Festival, July 24-Aug. 4, Vancouver, B.C. The annual event celebrates laughter with an eclectic mix of artists performing on outdoor stages throughout the city as well as in pubs and bars on Granville Island. (

“ Pacific Northwest Scottish Highland Games and Clan Gathering, July 31-Aug. 1, Enumclaw, King County Fairgrounds. A Scottish weekend of bagpipe bands, drummers, Highland dancing, caber toss and hammer throw competitions, Scottish foods and Celtic crafts. (206-522-2541;

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