“This was Ella’s first parachute drop and Logan’s fourth. They had a blast and told me they can’t wait for next year. I’m a toy dealer, so I have to set up and work most of the time at these events, but they still love ‘coming to shows with Daddy.’ Gabriel and Logan just met here at the ‘drop’ but then hung out playing and customizing their figures. Joelanta’s always a fun show and we love attending!”
—Ryan “Dr. Nick” Bonavia
March 15th, 2014: In years past, grown men eagerly jockeyed for elevator space at the Marriott Century Hotel in Atlanta, GA, tightly gripping parachute GIjOEs in their hands and mentally rehearsing various “toss-n-release” techniques they hadn’t used since they were kids. Why? Because any chance to participate in a Joelanta “parachute drop” was a unique and special opportunity, and they weren’t going to miss it.
By contrast, at this year’s extravaganza, while (some) adults were participating, for undeclared reasons, the majority in attendance elected to “sit it out” and act instead in a supervisory role—for their children. Perhaps many (adult) “jump veterans” of past conventions had grown tired of the up-and-down elevator rides, or now simply preferred to watch from below. Whatever the reasons, it was obvious that an unofficial, unspoken “passing-of-the-torch” was underway.
All around us, “Elder” GIjOE fans (fathers, uncles, grandfathers, etc.) were handing over their beloved parachute Joes and reassigning the majority of the evening’s upcoming “drop missions” to a younger generation. Among the children especially, a palpable excitement and anticipation began to grow. For many of them, this would be their FIRST parachute drop, and the fact that their parents were letting them ride up and down the elevators unsupervised was also a very BIG deal.
La Familia Bonavia
The family of Toy Federation head honcho, Ryan Bonavia (see photo at top), was a perfect example of the evening’s more youthfully skewed dynamic. Ryan’s son Logan (age 11) and his daughter Ella (age 6) ran up to us, plaintively asking a variety of questions including, “How do I throw this?,” “How high up should we go?” and “What if the ‘chute doesn’t open?” We calmly answered their questions, and tried to reassure them of the likely results. Satisfied with our answers, they looked up to the top of the atrium again in eager anticipation. This was going to be COOL!
A Perfect “Drop Zone” for GIjOE
Over the past 10 years, the Marriott Century Hotel’s massive indoor atrium in Atlanta has proven to be an excellent and (mostly) safe “drop zone” for the tossing of GIjOE USMC paratroopers, Army Golden Knights, and a wide assortment of Adventure Team and Action Man skydivers. Other than an occasional unopened parachute, or lost figure in an elevator shaft, hotel security has had little to complain about.
When tonight’s event was finally given a “GO!,” fans sat back and watched as elevators quickly filled up with happy children (and some adults), destined for the hotel’s top floor. Soon, GIjOEs of all sorts began drifting down, some snagging on plant boxes or wall sconces, but most successfully reaching the lobby floor where they were caught by some helpful fan, child, or hotel employee. Ryan and I smiled at each other as his children came back down and fed us continual updates on their success. Ella’s smaller parachute-toy had required some untangling and an occasional “search party” to find it, but otherwise, all went very smoothly.
Bottom Line: As usual, a few errant figures disappeared into the hotel’s elevator shafts, but after an hour of safe, silly fun, most were reunited with their owners, and Joelanta’s 2014 parachute drop was declared to be an unqualified success. Our sincerest thanks and best wishes to Ryan Bonavia and his wonderful family for their participation and contributions to this article. After 10 years in the same location, Joelanta’s parachute drop has set the standard and become one of the hobby’s grandest and most enjoyable spectacles. If you’ve never experienced the simple pleasure of tossing, catching or watching a “flock” of parachute GIjOEs in free-falling action, then you need to get yourself out to next year’s Joelanta. GERONIMO!