Out of the sky came some 800 missiles cascading down on the Mall appearing dangerously close to the Capitol.
Red, green, white, blue, yellow and orange plastic projectiles rained down on a crowd that let out a woop, then scurried off to find its playthings.
"Quite a lot of casualties this year," said master of ceremonies Paul Thompson, as anxious owners of missing Frisbee discs circled the podium in the aftermath of the Big Throw, a massive Frisbee disc fling held yesterday afternoon as part of the Fourth Annual Smithsonian Frisbee Disc Festival.
A crowd of some 12,000, most wearing shorts and tank tops, revealing tans and toned muscles, the apparent end results of a summer-long cultivation, had converged on the Mall between the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum and the Capitol for a day-long non-competitive festival that featured workshops and exhibitions by champion Frisbee-disc-playing humans and dogs.
Novice players perfected their "Hyzer," as well as their "Mung," tipping, nail delay and airbrushing, with the assistance of about 125 instructors who urged again and again: "snap your wrist harder. It's all in the snap."
"Relax your finger, a little bit, keep it in the center," coached Dan Thessen of Oxon Hill as Nancy Lindas fumbled a Frisbee disc off her finger, attempting to master the nail delay, a trick in which the disc spins atop the player's finger, a crucial element in the freestyle event.
"I don't think I'll be ready to show off anytime soon," said Lindas as the disc again fell to the dirt.
But 18-year-old Scott Zimmerman of Mclean, Men's Overall World Frisbee Disc Champion, has his nail delay down pat. Performing in the freestyle demonstrations yesterday with partner Eric Wooten, Zimmerman kept the disc spinning through intricate passes between his legs, behind his back, and off his kneecap.
"I get athletic expression from all this," said Zimmerman, a two-time champ who practices between five and eight hours a day and took his senior year off from high school so he could go pro on the Frisbee disc circuit, where he has made $15,000 so far this year.
His mother, Amanda Zimmerman, said allowing him to leave schol and take only a night class was "a difficult decision for me, but in retrospect it was the smartest thing I could have done. He's matured a great deal by traveling and doing interviews on TV shows, and meeting people he never would meet as a senior at McLean High School. And he should take advantage of it now. Two years from now Merv Griffin and Dinah Shore won't want him."
But as the crowd practiced their pancake catches, attempting not to bobble, wobble or plauck (fumble) the plastic discs, announcer Flash Kingsley reached below the podium and pulled out a metal pie tin manufactured by the Frisbe Pie Baking Co. of New Haven, Conn.
Kingsley said that in the 1940s the Frisbie pie tins began to be flung by Yale Univeristy students.
But the idea soon spread to plastic.
Rich knerr, founder and co-chairman of the board of the Wham-o Manufacturing Co., yesterday recalled the 1954 appearance of his company's plastic disc when he and his partner Spud Melin held the first competition in Monterey Park, Calif.
"A little Mexican kid, about so high, won," said Kneer holding his arm waist-high.
"It's an all-American sport, it represents freedom. It's a lot of fun for little money, and Firsbees create friends," said Knerr who, beer in hand, had just performed in a demonstration of "GUTS," which involves brutal firing of the disc so it cannot be caught by the opposing side. According to Kinsley, "At the old IFTs [International Frisbee Tournaments] you had to be drinking beer to play GUTS."
Kneer also was quick to point out the word "Frisbee" is a brand name held by his company and should always be followed by the word "disc." He said his firm puts the seemingly simple plastic toy through intricate wind tunnels and flight testing to perfect its performance.
"We keep refining them all the time," said Knerr. "It took the Wright Brothers a long time to get the same flight characteristics."
"The Frisbee is a very sophisticated aeronautical device," said Bill Good, organizer of the festival and an assistant art curator at the Air and Space Museum. "It's a combination between the wing and the gyroscope, and these are the elements of flight."
But the aerodynamics of his favorite toy mean little to Bluegrass Whippett, who sat drooling yesterday in the heat after executing a freestyle performance with his partner Lela Shaw.
Bluegrass is a 5-year-old part whippet, part Sringer spaniel dog who lost one of his hind legs when it was caught on a fence and hung there for 12 hours. o
Despite the amputation, Bluegrass was reaching heights of four and five feet yesterday as he leapt to retrieve the discs thrown by Shaw.
Shaw said she feeds Bluegrass from a Frisbee disc and "makes it his toy" to provide incentive for the dog to chase it relentlessly. Some owners of Frisbee-catching dogs have gone so far as to slather bacon grease on the disc. f
Yesterday Bluegrass was wearing a red cape that read: Cycle Ambassadog, because the dog-food company had flown Shaw and Bluegrass to the exhibition.
Holding a plastic disc punctured throughout by sharp canine teeth, Shaw boasted of Bluegrass' half-brother, Ashlley Whippett, a three-time winner of national championships for dogs, sponsored by WHAM-O and various dog-food companies.
She told of Ashley's and owner Alex Stein's Frisbee-catching performance on the field during a professional baseball game in Los Angeles.
"Alex snuck the dog in and they hopped a fence and went out on the field and played," said Shaw. "They got arrested, but WHAM-O bailed them out of jail.