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Opening Magic Kingdom

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

We Got To Crew A Hot Air Balloon

This week-end, Ottumwa, Iowa, is hosting its 33rd Annual Pro Balloon Classic and we got a chance to crew a balloon for Night Glow. The balloon and pilot, Kim Rosenboom from LeMars, Iowa, pictured below, were sponsored by OCP and OCCP. (Click here and here to read about our latest adventures with OCP and OCCP.) The festivities featured 46 balloon pilots from around the U.S.--most of them from Iowa.


Here's a license plate of one of the balloonists.

After the fun flight, more about that below, the pilots and crews pulled trucks and trailers around the perimeter of the open field and began the process of setting up their balloons for the Night Glow. Not all 46 pilots participate in the Night Glow. The requirement is to show your balloon on either of the two nights of Night Glow, unless you get a smiley face on your participation card. This means your balloon gets to be in Night Glow both nights.



Paula, Kim's wife, was the crew chief, and they both were able to direct us. After the basket came out, it was time to set up the poles and secure the cables. The big red bag in the trailer holds the balloon.


The basket get set on its side and the balloon is taken out of the bag and draped along the ground. The balloon is then attached to the basket.



The husband and I each hung onto a side of the opening of the balloon while the fan blew air into the opening to get the process of blowing up the balloon started. The size of the balloons is amazing! What was also pretty cool is the several balloonists were setting up their balloons all around us.


Time for some hot air. Kim directed the flames to heat up the air inside the balloon. Soon both the balloon and the basket were upright.


We discovered that many of the pilots of trading cards with information and stats along with a picture of their balloon. The trading cards get passed out to kids and adults. It is a calling card of sorts. Below are the trading cards for the Foofaraw, the balloon we crewed, and Hocus Pocus, the balloon of our friends Dale and Holly--organizers of the event. I have flown in Hocus Pocus, but that story if for another time.




The Night Glow lasted for several minutes and included music from the accompanying festivities in Greater Ottumwa Park. The song "Light My Fire" was playing as pilots synchronized the fires in their balloons. At several times, all of the balloons on the field were glowing.
We got to help take the balloon down. Kim let out some of the hot air and waited as other crews put away their balloons. Then it was our turn. Paula grabbed the rope and pulled the balloon on its side as Kim tipped over the basket. We used the "milker" and ties to get the hot air out of the balloon. Then it was time to put the deflated balloon back into the bag. That was a bit of an assembly line process with the boy sitting on the bag at the end to help get air out of the bag. Poles and cables came off the basket and the last item to be loaded into the trailer was the basket. All ready for the next flight. We thanked Kim and Paula for the experience. What a treat!


Dale's balloon Hocus Pocus--on the left--was in the fun flight. A multi-foot pole was erected in the middle of the landing field and had a $500 prize sitting on top. The balloon that retrieved the prize without hitting the pole, got to keep the $500. While a few balloons came close, no one got the prize. Only one balloon landed on the field.
It was fun to watch the balloons come over the tree line in an attempt to get the prize. Not all of the pilots and balloons flew in the fun flight, as the wind was a bit tricky.


Our vantage point on the side of the field gave us great views of the balloons.


Of course the boy talked his way into the balloon basket.
Next, he's hoping for a hot air balloon ride.



Here's Kim, the boy, and Paula enjoying the Night Glow festivities.



The field awash in balloons!

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