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Opening Magic Kingdom

Opening Magic Kingdom

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pro Hot Air Balloon Races

 Each year, our community hosts pro hot air balloon races.  And, for the last two years, we have volunteered to help crew a balloon.  Click here to read about crewing last year.

 We arrived at the event location just before 5:30 pm.  Got a great parking space--backed in to make getting out easier, brought a cooler of drinks and snacks, bug spray, chairs, a blanket, jackets, camera, flip camera, "glow" things for when it got dark, and cell phones.  We set up out location as to see the fun flight.  I also texted the person in charge to let them know we were here and available to help.

 Here come the balloon pilots back from the informational
meeting.  See the pole with the yellow flag?  That's the target,
along with the large yellow "X" on the ground for the fun flight.
Closest one. . . "wins"!

The phone rang a few minutes later. "Where are you?" After some direction giving and waving across the large field, we were told we were going to crew a balloon and to make our way across the field. OK, here we come.

We were introduced to our balloon pilot, Chris, from the NW portion of our state. He was traveling with his two small sons and the babysitter--who was too young to drive. He needed a balloon crew and a chase vehicle driver. Got it!

While we waited for our pilot and some of his friends to determine where we were headed to launch, we got the first balloons coming in for the fun flight.
 Ah, here's the first balloon over the horizon for the fun flight.  Corey, 17 year old pilot from Indianola, launched not too far from the field. 

 So close, but not close enough.  Interestingly, Corey and his crew will pack up the balloon and go launch again before the fun flight is over.  The only deadline is before sunset.

 Here come the next two balloons in for the fun flight.  The one on the right is Corey's cousin.  He will also launch his balloon again before the fun flight is concluded.

 Here's the boy videotaping the action.
Our location in the field, typically reserved for
pilots and crews, gave us great views.

  After waiting a while, we were off with Chris to find a launching spot for his balloon--Sweetness.  The boy and the husband were riding in the backseat while our pilot and his friends determined the best spot to launch.  Got a keep an eye on those winds!

 Watching other balloons launch helps too, as you can see if the winds are changing directions once the balloons get higher in the air.

Literally, our sky was covered with hot air balloons!

 We tried another location.  Our pilot, Chris, is the one on the far left.  The pilots are keeping a close eye on the other balloons.  But, the sun is starting to sink further into the horizon, so time is running out.

 We find a spot to launch the balloon.  All of us get to work--well sort of!

 The boy's first grade teacher and her husband just happen by the spot where we were launching the balloon.  By this time, the boy knows he is going up in the balloon.  She was taking pictures and videos for her daughter-in-law, who is from Korea and has no idea about hot air balloons. 

The husband's got the guide rope and the gloves.  Hold on tight!

Sweetness is about to be upright as Chris blows more hot air into the balloon.

The boy is ready for his second hot air balloon ride.  Click here to read about his first flight.

 Holding on tight!

And, there they go!  Up, up, and away in a beautiful balloon!  (I couldn't resist using those words!)

 The next part of the story involves me driving the chase vehicle, keeping track of the balloon and its location via radio, and getting to the balloon once it lands.  The following video may be helpful:

After packing up the balloon, we headed back to the field for Night Glow.  Our pilot chose not to set up his balloon for night glow, as the field already had LOTS of balloons going up.

 It's amazing to be in a field of balloons.  The sights and sounds are incredible!  While we have pictures, we also have video, thanks to the husband.  Check it out:

The evening ended with a fireworks display.  I discovered that my camera is smarter than I am when I tried out the "fireworks" setting.  It is amazing what you learn.

All in all, it was a great evening.  Beautiful weather, unexpected adventures, new friends and old friends. 

We're set to go again next year!

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