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Taylorsville Journal

Have you ever watched the Taylorsville Dayzz skydiving team descend and wondered, ‘Why is one jumper way off course?’ Turns out, there’s always been a simple explanation

Jun 06, 2023 12:43PM ● By Carl Fauver

As you should already be well aware – because it’s mentioned all over this issue of your Journal – the annual Taylorsville Dayzz celebration is now just a few short weeks away, June 22-24. But what you won’t read anywhere else is the answer to one of the great mysteries surrounding the city’s most-popular yearly gathering.

“Every year we hear gasps from many in the audience when they become concerned for one of the Saturday night skydivers because he appears to be drifting way off course,” Taylorsville Dayzz Committee Chairman Jim Dunnigan said. “First off: none of the parachuters has ever been injured. And none of them have ever been ‘off course.’ The secret all these years has been… one of the jumpers has always had a slightly different target on the ground.”

Dunnigan adds that his wife Vicki deserves the credit for Taylorsville Dayzz featuring a skydiving team at all. And he credits two longtime friends, Dale and Roger Kehl, for the parachuters returning every year. The brothers – with homes and large properties just west of the Taylorsville Dayzz main concert stage – are also the reason why one of the jumpers always appears off course.

“Vicki was after me for years, saying we needed skydivers to drop in during the Taylorsville Dayzz closing night concert, carrying in the United States flag,” Dunnigan continued. “It’s hard to say no to your wife – so I started looking around for a sponsor. The year we debuted parachuters (2012), the people at ‘Skydive Ogden’ told me four jumpers would cost $1,000. That’s when I turned to my neighbors – Dale and Roger Kehl – to see if they could help out. They told me they would – but with a catch.”

And that’s when the greatest mystery surrounding Taylorsville Dayzz was born.

“My brother Dale and I were homebuilders and business partners in Kehl Homes for more than 50 years,” Roger Kehl begins his part of the story. “The first I heard about Taylorsville Dayzz skydivers is when Dale came to me and said, ‘I need a $1,000 (company donation) check for Jim – we’re sponsoring the divers. Dale was the big brother. On things like this, he often ‘told’ me – didn’t ‘ask’ me.”

However, the caveat Dale added to the deal was: ‘If you want our $1,000 donation, Jim, one of the jumpers has to land IN MY OPEN FIELD.’ That open field is only a couple hundred yards west of where all the other parachuters land at the Valley Regional Park softball fields. Kehl’s open field is also near his swimming pool – where he would be hosting a big family party. It’s close enough to hear the Taylorsville Dayzz music. And it’s close enough for one skydiver to “drop in” on the private event. 

“It was an unusual deal; but I wanted to make my wife happy – and it has turned out great,” Dunnigan added. “Every year the Kehl brothers renew their sponsorship. Every year I thank them from the concert stage, along with our 30 other Taylorsville Dayzz sponsors. And every year, one of our jumpers appears to stray off course – because he’s headed for the Kehls’ private party.”

Skydive Ogden owner Brian Wallace was also taken aback some when Dunnigan first floated this “one wayward jumper” idea by him 11 years ago. But he says the jump has become a fun, annual tradition for his team as well.

“Taylorsville Dayzz is one of the biggest events we do each year,” Wallace said. “Nearly every year we make two jumps that night. First, we almost always jump into the Riverton Rodeo. The two events are nearly always the same night. Then we repack our chutes, get back in the plane and jump into Taylorsville. I am usually the one with the huge, unfurled United States flag hanging behind me. We love seeing all the people – especially the kids. And we’ve never had any problems with one of our jumpers landing in the field to the west.”

If Vicki Dunnigan deserves credit for the skydivers coming at all… and the Kehl brothers get the credit for funding it all these years… then Taylorsville City Councilwoman Meredith Harker gets her share of credit for blowing the lid off this decade-old secret.

“I’m one of those who has sat watching the skydivers come in and wondered why one of them was drifting way off to the side,” Harker explained. “Then, a couple of years ago, I became involved in the Taylorsville Dayzz Committee. At one of our meetings earlier this year I asked Jim about it. That’s when he told me the story about the Kehl brothers. I’m so grateful they make that donation each year. Kids love watching the skydivers come down. Adults love it. Everyone in the audience sings. It’s such a great tradition.”

Unfortunately, time and circumstances eventually change all traditions. No family will know that better this coming Saturday night, June 24, than the Kehls. A couple of months after last year’s “wayward” skydiver landed on his property, Dale Kehl passed away at age 81. He’d been living alone in his sprawling home after losing his wife several years earlier.

“I think Jim may have been a little nervous calling me about this year’s skydive team donation since it was the first year without my brother,” Roger Kehl concluded. “But I spoke with his children about it – and it’s definitely a tradition we want to carry on. We love Taylorsville and have always wanted to be an active part of the community. Besides, I share one fence line with my brother… and another with Jim Dunnigan. We’re all neighbors.”

Roger expects another large family gathering at his brother’s swimming pool on that final night of Taylorsville Dayzz this year. He’s confident his brother Dale will be there in spirit. And he also knows everyone who’s read this article will finally understand why one of the Skydive Ogden jumpers appears to be off target. He’s actually headed exactly where he’s supposed to go. λ

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