"This was really just our fun, elaborate plan to push our friend off of a barge,” laughs Henry Brown, a manager at the Nook in St. Paul and a Definite Non-Murderer.
Brown's talking about Red Bull Flugtag, the homemade, human-powered flying contraption competition that gets groups of friends shoving intrepid/duped pilots off a 30-foot-tall deck and into a body of water below. The annual attempt to glide (or fall) farthest returns to St. Paul this Saturday, which is where you'll find the Nook's team sending a flying, cheese-stuffed burger—dubbed "Das Fliegendlucy"—into the Mississippi.
Their idea was born a few months back, when Brown and Nook regular Sean Pfundstein started spitballing across the bar over a beer about Flugtag's return to St. Paul. Talk turned from "isn't that funny" to "wouldn't it be weird if we did this" to... "Well, why couldn't we do this?"
“It may have been one or two more beers that pushed us over into doing it," Pfundstein says. "Can neither confirm nor deny.”
This being the bar behind Bon Appetit's favorite Lucy in the Cities, the team drew up a burger-based design, applied, and were accepted—somewhat to their surprise—a few weeks later.
Is the Nook staff secretly gifted in the field of homemade flying machines, or are they, uh... winging it?
Well, Brown did go to the Flugtag the last time it was in St. Paul... although that was nine years ago. Pfundstein describes their beef-and-cheese bunch as "information-light," but they've had all kinds of help from "peoples' roommates’ dads and stuff."
“Especially Minnesotans who are native, they’re really excited to see this thing because it’s such a huge staple of the Twin Cities," Brown says. "So a lot of people have been offering up help, left and right, whenever we need it.”
It's not just a flying Juicy Lucy: A Minneapple Pie, a soaring Spoonbridge and Cherry, and a tribute to our state bird are among the Minnesota-themed contraptions that'll glide and/or crash into the Mississippi this weekend. The MPR raccoon will take to the sky once more, and there's a South Dakota entrant meant to reignite the gray duck vs. goose debate.
(Not every flying device is regional; there's also, among other things, a Big Lebowski-inspired "flugtoe.")
The Nook rookies realize competition will be hotter than a Juicy Lucy's molten center: One group traveling to town has placed second in Flugtag already, and started building this year before they'd even applied.
Brown says he's got his eyes on a team that plans to send an ax-wielding Paul Bunyan into flight, and he expects the Loon—designed by a group that includes an Air Force academy grad and two rocket scientists, complete with "glowing laserbeam eyes"—will be a "fierce competitor." (That's why they're asking folks to pick Das Fliegendlucy in the popular vote portion of the competition before Saturday's flying festivities as a show of support.)
“The Juicy Lucy, the loon, and Paul Bunyan… it sounds like a beginning to a joke,” Brown muses.
Pfundstein laughs. “The Minnesota triumvirate.”
Red Bull Flugtag 2019
September 7, 10:30 a.m.; Free
Harriet Island Park, St. Paul