You’ve Seen Their Parachute, Now Meet the Crew Behind Roochute
If you’ve been to Bonnaroo within the past four years, chances are you’ve seen a massive rainbow parachute magically appear out of thin air. If that didn’t capture your attention, the tall tan guy with a white denim jacket blowing a whistle and inviting everyone in ear’s distance to come to experience something different probably did. That dude is Ron Holgado. He and Patrick Fromuth founded and help lead the properly named Roochute. Ron was born and raised in Ohio and is now a resident of Columbus. He currently works at James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute and has been in the medical field for years.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Ron and some of his crew members at Kafe Kerouac in the Old North area of downtown Columbus. I’ve seen Roochute around over the past few years, but not until recently did I know just how much of an impact this simple parachute could have on the people that come across it.
I first met Ron at Bellwether Festival this summer. I saw the parachute pop up after a set and ran right over. This is the same one I’ve seen at ‘Roo. I got a chance to talk to the guys there and learned that it’s much more than just a parachute; it’s about sharing love and spreading mental health awareness.
The Rise of Roochute
2014 was his first time going to Bonnaroo, and he decided to sneak a 50-foot parachute into the legendary festival.
“It was an idea with friends, just going through the internet. We saw a viral video of someone taking a parachute, and the conversation just started, why don’t we have a parachute in everyday life?” Ron said. “It was pre-planned; there were plenty of parachutes that have been brought into festivals, but what makes Roochute different is the message that is tied to it: using something that is so iconic and relating it to something that is so relevant but not talked about.”
Prior to Bonnaroo, Ron met Ana Goffe (pronounced On-a), a free spirit with a heart that matches the gloriousness of the parachute. Ana first saw Roochute on Instagram and noticed it was in Columbus. She saw that Ron was going to soon be a guest speaker at a TED Talk about the human narrative. It didn’t take long for her to fall in love with the parachute, what it stands for, and the vibes that came with it. Ever since she has been a vital member of the Roochute crew.
“It (the parachute) breaks down barriers. No one cares who’s next to them or what they look like; it’s just about that moment. It’s really amazing”
After Bonnaroo 2014, the parachute started making its way all around Columbus. Ron and Ana were riding the wave of positivity that came with them after their experience at ‘Roo. “This is so cool, it makes so many people happy. Why should I stop? We wanted to take that energy from Bonnaroo and radiate that positivity 365 days a year.” Everything about Roochute is completely self-funded. It is powered by volunteers and amazing people.
Ana has been friends with Hannah Randolph since middle school; Hannah joined the Roochute crew a little over a year ago. Hannah helped bring the parachute to Okeechobee Fest and Electric Forest in 2018. Some festivals they had to sneak it in; claiming their massive duffle bag was a sleeping bag usually did the trick. At others, the festival staff welcomed them, especially Electric Forest. “The staff was always understanding once they saw what was happening, a huge sense of camaraderie and togetherness filled the air.”
Over the years it’s been to various festivals including Hulaween, Coachella, Bellwether Fest, and Lollapalooza. It has never been met with anything other than overwhelming positivity. “The parachute started as a social experiment. It was a way to just help people remember their favorite day of gym class. It really inspires people to step out of their comfort zone. You see people who wouldn’t want to do something close to that. You see people who want to play with it but are hesitant. But you look at them and wave them over, and they join in. These are the ones who seem to have the most fun and get the most out of the experience.”
Justin Villanueva was born in Macedonia OH but now also lives in Columbus. He has been a huge member of the Roochute crew for a year or so. His background is in photography and videography. One year he made a video for Ron’s friend Alex, who told him about Ron and how they needed some videos to help promote Roochute on Facebook and Instagram. Since then he has helped make and edit dozens of videos for the crew, but he has also been an important member who helps bring the positivity of the parachute around the United States.
“It was all about the community and the camaraderie. We’re all about community. We want to be united through the community that Roochute brings”
One of the most exciting and impactful moments that Roochute has been a part of was in 2017 when its message was being spread at music festivals. Ron, Ana, Hannah, Kesi, Patrick and a ton of other volunteers helped open and spread out the largest parachute they have, which is over 50 feet across, outside the windows of The James Cancer Hospital.
“We all came together as a team… a moment of serendipity and a prime example of the parachute bringing together ‘positivity promoters’.”
“I wanted to let people know that we are here for them.” said Ron. Since then the Roochute has popped up all around Columbus, helping bring smiles and enjoyment to both kids and adults. They were at the Doo Dah Parade in Columbus.
“In a traditional parade nothing is interactive; you just watch. Anytime the parade stopped for a moment we would call people from the crowd over. They were hesitant at first, but you could tell that it made their day”
– Hannah and Ana
The parachute and the crew have gotten amazing support from the community. One of the most recent events that they volunteered at was the CARE Coalition. CARE is about changing the community. It helps individuals, families, and neighborhoods become healthy and strong again after something bad happens. When they build up individuals and families in a crisis, they help build up entire neighborhoods. Ron reached out to CARE about their upcoming event at a middle school. The parachute was brought to this school and was met with overwhelming support and love by everyone who was involved.
What Does the Future Hold for Roochute?
The whole crew is planning to bring the chute to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital‘s grand opening of their behavioral health building, but that’s not until 2020. From now until that day, I know that this parachute and the people that make it possible will continue to grow and make a difference in the world.
One of the most notable things about Roochute is that there isn’t much planning. “That’s the spirit of it all. It’s a surprise; it’s spontaneous. We do it live.” said Ron.
“It really hasn’t been that regimented, which is kind of what’s beautiful about it. We want it to surprise people, we want to keep that spontaneity. Where you don’t really know where it will show up, whether it’s through the vehicle of the parachute or through some other activations that we may plan in the future.”
It seems that the energy of the universe is pushing this amazing group of people and their message forward. I asked them where they hope to be in four years, nothing that any of them said was about their personal goals, but the goals of the group and how they hope to change the community around them.
“Why limit it to one place? We want to meet new people and make a difference”
The group hopes to be part of The Make a Wish Foundation. They hope that the attention that they have been recently getting will help them become involved in this special charity. “Imagine a child’s dream is to meet Beyoncé. They’re in a room, and the parachute is there. We’re making it bloom and having fun, then all of a sudden Queen B pops out on the other side. It would be magical.”
Where Will Roochute Be Next?
Ron and some other members will be making their way back to Hulaween in just a few weeks. If you’re going, don’t be surprised when you see this beautiful rainbow pop up in the middle of a set or crowd. They’re also hoping to be at Bassnectar NYE in Greensboro NC.
There are rumors that a new festival will be popping up in Tennessee next year and that they have invited the crew there to help make it a more memorable experience for all attendees. Sadly, that’s all they could tell me due to an NDA they had signed.
Bonnaroo is a guarantee, where the entire Roochute crew is part of the third largest groop camping at the festival, “Trying to go to bed Bonnaroo.” The founder of this 250+ person group is Kesi Michael, who is also a huge member of the Roochute crew. Ron and Kesi met at Roo in 2015, when they were camping neighbors. Every year the group is at Bonnaroo they bring some insane stuff and special surprises with them to share with the rest of the community there. From giant unicorn inflatables to free pizza parties and mini hands, it’s really something to see and experience.
Quick Fun Facts About the Roochute Crew
- Favorite festival – Whole group agrees on Bonnaroo. (Ana and Hannah 2013, Ron 2014 and Justin 2018)
- Ron – Daft Punk
- Hannah – Simple Plan “They’re not my favorite ever, but they have definitely changed my life.”
- Justin – John Bellion
- Ana – “Good Times” by Chic “I will never not get super happy when I hear it”
Would you rather be a tree or a flower? Why?
- Ron – Flower – “It’s just a symbol of the fragility of time, appreciate the moment.”
- Hannah – Tree – “I stood strong at the end of the day, I can’t easily be knocked down. Also so I can wave.”
- Justin – Tree – “Beautiful things don’t ask for attention.”
- Ana – Flower –“I’ll be the flower that decorates Hannah’s tree”
Who is your dream person to see under the parachute?
- Ron – Ellen Degeneres – He has a daruma doll tattoo whose other eye will only be filled in for Ellen. “She ends every show with by saying, ‘Be kind to one another,’ which is what Roochute is all about. She has such an amazing reach, I feel like she can make a big difference in who we’re able to help.”
- Hannah – Bill Nye – “I just love him so much.”
- Justin – Tim Farris or Neil deGrasse Tyson
- Ana – Jonathan Haidt – “I’ve probably paid for at least one of his vacations with how many of his books I own or have bought as gifts.”