Out in the northwest corner of Connecticut, there's a ski jumping competition that's become a national qualifier for aspiring Olympians.
But it’s one of those events that unless you know, then you’d probably never know. It’s the Salisbury Jumpfest and it’s been running for 95 years.
“You drive through town, you'd never know we're here,” said Willie Hallihan, one of the directors with the Salisbury Winter Sports Association, which runs the event.
One weekend a year, as you drive along Route 44, you start to see signs, about 15 miles out from town. Some say “Jumpfest” others just say “Jump” with an arrow where to turn.
According to Hallihan, Salisbury is the kind of place where kids grow up playing baseball in the summer and ski jumping in the winter. It’s a tradition that started back in 1926.
“Everything started when a Norwegian immigrant named John Satre moved to Salisbury,” said Hallihan. “Nobody realized at the time but he was one of the best Nordic skiers in the world... To show the locals what his sports was all about, he climbed up on the barn roof in the wintertime, jumped off the edge of it, landed safely.”
There’s been ski jumping in Salisbury ever since.
Satre and his brothers weren’t just good jumpers, going on to compete nationally and internationally, they were good teachers, too.
“They were so enthusiastic about their sport that they taught the locals how to jump,” said Hallihan.
Decades later: Jumpfest. It has become a place for some of the best young talent to qualify for national competition.
“I tell people, you will see future Olympians,” said Hallihan.
They’ve missed years in the past because of bad weather. This year, with great weather for the weekend, they weren’t missing it because of a pandemic. Masks were required while they limited the capacity to just 400 people each day. Hallihan said on Saturday, they had to turn away around 200 cars.
Driving through Salisbury, you’d never know what was happening just off Main Street but if you listen closely, you might hear a cowbell and Hallihan hopes you’ll join them next year.
“It is the best-kept secret, it's not by design,” said Hallihan. “You can travel 45 minutes away from downtown Salisbury and people have never heard of us... 95 years of ski jumping and we're still a secret, which, we're trying bit by bit to change.”