The Petrehn family name has been, for many decades, connected with ballooning and John Petrehn recalls, “My first flight in a hot air balloon was when I was just a couple of years old and could not event see over the side of the basket. My father was the pilot.”
John became an FAA licensed balloon pilot at the age of only 16 and is currently the #4 ranked pilot in the world. “Ballooning is my full time job, profession, career, hobby, and obsession,” explains the owner of Magniflight hot air balloon company based in Houston.
Among his more than 50 awards, John won the 2006 World Hot Air Balloon Championship held in Tochigi, Japan and again in 2010. The 19th FAI World Hot Air Balloon Championship took place in Debrecen, Hungary and John was among top competitors from five continents and 33 countries.
Although John and his highly experienced chase crew typically log 100 flights a year, this will be their first time launching Bimbo® bear here in Plano, the Hot Air Balloon Capital of Texas. “It is a magical feeling when you lift off, especially in the beautiful Bimbo® bear balloon. The crowd loves the special shape and always send us off with a loud cheer,” states the pilot.
Bimbo® bear is a brand new special shape hot air balloon, representing the Bimbo Bakeries USA company and Bimbo® brand sweet baked goods, which
is headquartered in Horsham, Pennsylvania. Standing 105 feet tall, the Bimbo® bear is 78 feet wide and weighs nearly 600 pounds.
On this day, September 19th we wish a happy anniversary to Chris and Heather Ward who graciously shared their story in this letter:
Dear Plano Balloon Festival,
It was September 19th, 2008; and my boyfriend Chris and I were driving to this hot air balloon festival that I had never been to before. He was a ham radio operator, so he had assisted in past years with the balloon recovery and retrieval chase crews. We got stuck in traffic and his normally very calm personality was no where in site. Chris was getting agitated like we were on some time schedule. He told me he had arranged for a photographer to meet us there and take some “couple pictures” of us. He said I should get my hair and nails done, and wear black and white because the balloons are so colorful.
So, we met Chris Vouras of Dallas Digital Events. He explained that he had a videographer that was new and training for events of all kinds, so I would see him with a camera here and there. My Chris’ best friend, his wife and their son was there taking in all the sites as well.
We got to our pictures. Then my Chris up and disappeared! We could not find him for what felt like an eternity. I was just chatting with the photographer and Chris’ best friend and finally he appeared and said we were going on the balloon field. I am an avid rule follower, so I did not like this plan. I should add, I had just had surgery on my leg that month before and was able to walk some but was in a wheelchair the majority of the time. So, he pushed me across the field to this beautiful balloon, which we now know is called the Chameleon II owned by David and Mary Ann Hawkins.
The photographer turned my chair and said he wanted to get some pictures of just me for a moment because the lighting was beautiful. Balloons were inflating all around us, as they were preparing for the evening “Glow.” All the sudden, my Chris appeared and asked me if I could stand for a moment because he had something he wanted to talk to me about. He had a stuffed turtle in his hand, dressed in a tuxedo. He started saying a lot of wonderful things, I was crying, and then he asked….”Would you be my wife?”
He opened the ring box, I gasped and said YES! Then he said the sneakiest part of all, “And you know what, all of this was caught on tape for us to have!” Stinker! He had arranged all of this, and I was blown away! The balloons went up all around us, we took photos on the field as the balloon glow was happening and I just kept staring at my ring in awe. Chris had it custom made for me to include sapphires, my birthstone, and the month he proposed.
We parted ways with the professional photographer and videographer, and took in the rest of the evening. We bought shirts to help us always remember the 2008 Plano Balloon Festival (like we could forget), he bought a pin and we had junk food. It was awesome. I even saw a lightening bug for the first time that evening!
I created a photo book of our engagement story so we wouldn’t forget anything over the years and our video was given to us when we got our wedding video back. Our engagement video is now on YouTube.
Flash forward now, 8 years later. We got married on 07/08/09 and have been married for 7 years. We have two beautiful children who are the lights of our world. Our 4 year old daughter tells everyone she can that she can’t understand why her mommy and daddy did not invite her to their wedding. LOL! We have an almost 2 year old son, as well.
We plan to come back to the 2016 InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival so our children can experience this magical place; and for the Hawkins’ of the Chameleon II to meet our kiddos. Thank you for all the planning and preparations you all do to put the festival together every year. You never know when your efforts will change someone’s life and that night in 2008, mine changed.
Dallas-based visual artist and photographer Stephanie Johnson offers these professional tips for taking photographs of hot air balloons at the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival:
#1 PLAN YOUR VISIT IN ADVANCE
Community events gather large crowds, so go in with a game plan. Know where you’ll park and where you’ll predominantly want to be. Be sure to plan what you’ll bring versus what you will not want to weigh you down.
Plan your gear choices being sure to limit your lenses to less than a few multifocal lenses versus too many prime ones. The ability to follow along a balloon will be helpful when things start moving quickly. Also, be sure to pack a tripod or monopod. The most photographed times of morning or sundown when the balloonsare wanting to be “glowing” the tripod or monopod can help greatly with camera stabilization in low lightatmospheres.
Walkable, comfortable clothing and shoes will be something you thank yourself for doing.
#2 ARRIVE AS EARLY AS YOUR SCHEDULE WILL ALLOW
Not only does this help with being able to catch set up, it allows you the opportunity to scope the balloons that will be around.
Focus on a few in a close area to watch through take off so you don’t miss any of the potential photographs that come from that time. You don’t want to be caught up in a crowd when you could be capturing a greatmoment.
#3 IF YOU ONLY HAVE ONE LENS TO TAKE
If you can only manage to have one lens with you on your camera then go as wide as you can. A kit lens (one that comes with your camera) is often an 1855 and that gives you a good, standard range to play with. Honestly, the less to carry in your bag, the less you have to deal with and the less chance you have of missing a good moment because of lens change.
Remember that these balloons are much larger than many people realize (until they see them up close) soyou would hate to get there and have equipment that keeps you from capturing the whole of themagnificence.
#4 BE AWARE OF THE SUN
Whether you want the glow to go through the balloon from behind, or to reflect onto it directly, you’ll have tobe aware of the big bulb in the sky. Photography is an active and anticipatory process so being aware of where things are headed can help you grab a great photo at the right time.
There will be many levels of light from morning to night so you will have to be able to anticipate and adjust your settings accordingly.
#5 KNOW YOUR SURROUNDINGS.
Because of the large amount of people and equipment at an event of this magnitude, it is important to not gettoo caught up in it all. It can be really easy to be so into the act of photographing that you fail to notice ropes, cords, holes in the ground, etc.
#6 TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.
Wear sunscreen and be sure to stay hydrated. Even on a cooler day, a lot of time outdoors with the sun and crowds can be quite harsh on the body. Be sure to take care of you.
Find out more about Stephanie Johnson, an award-winning photojournalist, by visiting www.SJohnsonArt.com. The 2016 InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival will be held September 23-25 at Oak Point Park and tickets are available www.planoballoonfest.org.
Pilots participating in the 2016 InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival are in need of crew volunteers the weekend of September 23-25, 2016. Each hot air balloon requires a minimum of three people and up to 15 depending on the size of the balloon.
No experience is necessary for this hands-on opportunity to assist with the unloading, set-up, inflation, launch, landings and deflations. Volunteers who register quickly may attend the free crew training session being held with several balloons and pilots on Sunday September 18th at Oak Point Park. Volunteers working two shifts will also receive a 2016 Crew t-shirt featuring the “Dazzling Autumn Skies” logo.
Shifts typically range from 3 to 4 hours and balloon coordinators indicate all crew members should be able to push, shove or lift up to 50 lbs. Teenagers ages 15-17 can volunteer with a parent or guardian and community service hours may be earned for Eagle Scouts, Young Men’s Service League, and many other organizations. All volunteers will meet at Collin Creek Mall and ride with the assigned pilot, and their hot air balloon, to and from the launch field.
Evening flight crews will be invited to enjoy a catered dinner and the Sunday flight includes brunch for all pilots and volunteers. This year there will be random drawings on Friday and Saturday nights for $500 worth of gift cards to local restaurants and movie theaters.
The Dolphin balloon owner Jason Myers is participating as a pilot for only the second time at the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival. Jason has volunteered as a crew member for other pilots for more than 10 years and currently resides in McKinney, Texas. Last year Jason won 4th place in the Plano Balloon fly-in competition and was one of 40 balloons to set a World Record at the Dallas Cowboys Stadium for the “Most Hot Air Balloons Inflated Indoors.”
“My first flight in a hot air balloon was September 12, 1981 when my Aunt Gayle flew my Dad and I from Silver Springs Park in Stow to Brimfield in Ohio. It got me hooked with a love for aviation and sport of ballooning,” recalls Jason Myers. “In the pilot logbook under ‘Nature of Flight’ my Aunt Gayle simply wrote, ‘Fun.’ I recorded ‘coolest thing ever done’ in my mental logbook.”
According to Jason, The Dolphin is a “she” balloon because female dolphins are lighter than males, and in ballooning, the lighter the better. Manufactured by Avian, The Dolphin is 60,000 cubic feet and a Falcon II. The two dolphins swimming around were hand sewn onto the balloon in the basement of a church by friends and family. There are more than 400 round “water bubbles” that his Aunt Gayle meticulously positioned and the light blue, green, yellow, and dark blue colors represent the ocean, land, sun and sky.
“I started flying and taking lessons when I was 16 years old. I flew as a student pilot for many years and finally completed my Private Pilot’s license for Lighter than Air (LTA) classification in 2013.”
Jason adheres to a strict 3-Strike Rule explaining that if that many things go wrong before a flight then it’s best to stop the negative pattern before getting in the air and not fly at all.
On the flip side, hot air balloon newbies, upon completion of their first flight, receive the traditional glass of champagne (or sparkling cider) and Balloonist’s Prayer recited as the toast. Concealed in The Dolphin basket, Jason always carries a sentimental memento of his Aunt Gayle, who lost a battle to cancer in 2001.
“I get a rush of excitement every time I lift off. The feeling of leaving the ground and becoming airborne is a rush that continues with every flight.”
Sharing a love of ballooning with the community is what Jason believes is the best part about the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival. He enjoys answering questions about the balloon and the look in the eyes of children when they come up to the basket, watch the glow of the burners, and feel the heat.
“There’s something magical about the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival because of the excitement and energy that it brings to people as they watch the balloons inflate, stand up, and lift-off into the sky,” explains Jason Myers.
Jason regularly drives The Dolphin to nearby fields within Collin County and logged approximately 30 flights in 2015. He also owns and flies a larger Cameron balloon, that is 105,000 cubic feet, the “A.M. Sunrise” named for his daughter Abigayle Marie. Outside of ballooning Jason is a Product Specialty Manager at Great Southern Wood that manufactures treated lumber and distributes construction material.
This summer The Dolphin inflated at Oak Point Park and below is a live video in real-time of Jason Myers and his balloon. Make plans to see The Dolphin swimming on the field September 23-25, 2016 at the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival www.planoballoonfest.org.
Guest contributor: Mike Kohl, Race Coordinator and Board of Directors, Plano Balloon Festival, Inc.
The Plano Balloon Festival Races (PBF Races) include a 1k, 5k, Half Marathon, and Relay that match a runner’s love of a challenging course and family friendly environment, complete with hot air balloons. We are proud of the races this event offers for runners and it shows in the participation numbers. Over the past six years, the race has grown from less than 1,000 entrants in 2010 to over 4,000 runners in 2015. The PBF Races now represent one of the largest in North Texas and we estimate 1,750 half marathon runners this year.
With the coordinated efforts by the Plano Balloon Festival, Inc. and DFW Runs, Eric Lindberg, the team provides the experience, knowledge and passion to continue with a well-organized and competently executed Race Series. The success of PBF Races can be attributed to the total focus and value offered to runners and family members. This is reflected in the custom finisher medals, race shirts, capes for kids, catered food, tickets to the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival, age bracket awards, water stations, volunteers, and the immense attention to detail provided by race coordinators.
The race course was changed in 2014 for three reasons: 1) Finish closer to the start to make it a true loop course, 2) Maintain close proximity to Runner’s Village, and 3) Better running experience. The Half Marathon Relay was added in 2016 as a direct result of the survey of runners from last year. PBF Races truly values the input and feedback from runners and this is one result of many in our collaborative efforts.
PBF Races attracts many first time half marathon runners within the metroplex and we are honored to have them at our starting line and proud to cheer them across the finish line. For those training we suggest that you join a running group from Run On!, Cooper Fitness, Frisco Running Club or any place that has others also training for PBF Races. Stick with the program and if you can’t do a short race during the week, make sure you extend to longer runs on the weekend. Don’t over-train. It’s just as easy to over-train as under-train and this causes injuries. Listen to your body and if you do become injured, avoid pushing yourself further until fully healed. Hydration is key because the Texas heat requires replenishing your body with a lot of fluids.
Incidents during the PBF Races are minimal because this is our #1 goal. Annual briefings are held to discuss the safety of the runners during the event and have an established evacuation plan in case of inclement weather. Plano Fire and Plano Police Department are onsite during the race to provide immediate assistance.
Prior participants have come from Ireland (a race team came over specifically for the event), Canada, Mexico and every contiguous state. PBF Races has become a part of people’s stories shown in race selfies, marriage proposals at the finish line, cancer survivors, Olympic Qualifiers, company sponsored teams, super heroes, tu-tus, and even a hot dog once ran in our race – truly a festival atmosphere. Lastly, we have award winning Finisher’s medals, which are given to all racers who complete the course. This year, the half marathon medal will be no exception – large, colorful and the center spins around making it a dazzling piece of bling.
Registration for PBF Races is available www.pbfraces.org and you can follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pbfraces/ for updates and conversations with other runners. Saturday, September 24, 2016 the 5K run will start at 7:30 a.m. and the 1K fun run will begin at 9:00 a.m. with the awards ceremony scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Sunday, September 25, 2016 the Half Marathon and Relay will begin at 7:00 a.m. and the awards ceremony scheduled for 9:30 a.m. More information about the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival “Dazzling Autumn Skies” being held September 23-25, 2016 at Oak Point Park, may be found at www.planoballoonfest.org.