THE HOT BUSINESS OF BALLOON LOVE

“The Hot  Business of Balloon Love” written by Maridee Dietzel 

 

It began with a love story. Tamie Folley and Mike Shrum met at a ballooning event in the Philippines.  They shared a passion for ballooning, and about a year later, they began dating.

 

Fast forward to 2016 when they opened their business, Happily Ever After Balloon Company. Tamie was crewing for a friend in Albuquerque when he mentioned that he had an idea that may interest them. He had noticed the shirts Tamie and Mike’s crew wore when working their pink camouflage balloon; the shirts feature a heart with wings on it. The designer wanted to build a balloon in the shape of a heart, but not just an ordinary heart. This heart has personality!

 

According to Tamie, Te aMo, who is named after Tamie and Mike (the capital T is for Tamie, and the capital M is for Mike), is a bit stubborn—he handles and flies differently than their other five balloons. Te aMo’s eyes stand up above the rest of the heart, with his black eyebrows and casual smile showing his playful nature. Two white wings on his back also rise above the rest of the heart, and his hands join in the front with his fingers forming the shape of a heart.

 

Te aMo’s designer spent five months carefully constructing him in Sao Paulo, and his first flight was over beautiful Brazil. He weighs 418 pounds when he’s not inflated. When he is inflated, he measures 84 feet across from elbow to elbow, 77 feet tall, and 45 feet front to back. He can carry up to 350 pounds in passenger weight.

 

 

True to his namesake, Te aMo loves love stories. Many couples ask to propose in front of Te aMo and then have their pictures taken with him in the background. Te aMo even plans to make an appearance at a crew member’s wedding in the not-too-distant future!

 

Te aMo loves to fly, and so does his pilot. Tamie grew up in Albuquerque and enjoyed her first flight when she was 12. A decade and a half later, she crewed a balloon for a friend’s husband at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. This time, the flight changed her life.

 

 

That “flight . . . was more spectacular than words can say!” Tamie enthused. Because of that flight, she chose to become a balloon pilot.

 

“Flying is my greatest passion,” says Tamie. “There’s no greater joy and peace.”

 

 

She is fortunate to balloon full-time, and during peak season, she flies as often as the weather allows, which can be four or more times each week. She’s had her share of challenging weather and rough landings—as says,

 

“All pilots have [those]; if they haven’t, they will at some point! I do my very best to check weather and make the safest choices every flight. I listen to my gut a lot; sometimes you don’t know why your intuition tells you what it does until later.”

 

 

Tamie and Te aMo are so popular that they’ve been able to fly together all over the world. However, her long jump flight competition (a flight in which pilots use a pre-determined amount of fuel and fly as far as possible) in Colorado with views of Pike’s Peak stands out as her most magnificent memory.

 

Tamie and Te aMo are hoping for good weather this year at the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival.

 

VOLUNTEER TURNED HOBBYIST KEITH BERRY TO PILOT FOX 4 NEWS BALLOON

By:  Amanda Fazzino

 

Balloon pilot Keith Berry caught a bug for hot air ballooning 29 years ago.  “I flew as volunteer crew at a balloon festival in Missouri in 1990,” Berry recalls. “I was immediately hooked!”

 

That one act of service launched a decades-long commitment to the sport.

 

“It’s one of the most awesome feelings to be free and in control of a 75 foot tall, 50 foot wide bubble of hot air floating through the sky,” Berry says. “It’s like being able to walk on air!”

 

A Missouri native, Berry moved to Plano in 1998 and quickly got involved with the Plano Balloon Festival, serving as volunteer crew and then as a festival official for 15 years.

In 2002, he earned his pilot’s license and has been taking flight ever since. In 2015, Berry won first and second place in two competition targets and has won other balloon competitions over the years.

 

Keith Berry Highly Cool hot air balloon InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival

Festival attendees will recognize Berry’s balloon, Highly Cool, by the large Fox 4 News banner attached to the envelope during the festival weekend. Fox 4 News is a long-time sponsor of the Plano Balloon Festival. In addition to the banner, the envelope is marked by two horizontal black stripes creating three sections. The upper and lower sections are vertical rainbow stripes, while the middle section is filled with stair-stepped blocks of colors, creating a kaleidoscope effect when viewed from underneath. The 75 foot tall balloon has an air capacity of 90,000 cubic feet. When the balloon is in flight and seen from the ground, it’s hard to appreciate how big that really is. Compare it to an Olympic-sized swimming pool, which holds a similar of water.

 

Considering the size, it’s no wonder pilots need a team to get them off the ground. Berry now chooses his own crew and shares his knowledge with ballooning newcomers. Balloon crew volunteers are essential to a successful flight, helping to assemble, inflate, chase and pack up the balloon.

 

“I choose people who have a love and passion for ballooning, and just love to be part of the process,” he says.

 

Keith Berry Highly Cool hot air balloon InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival
Plano Balloon Festival

Berry flies as often as weather permits, usually 25 to 30 times a year.

“I try and make sure the weather and wind will be conducive for a good flight, but a few times it has made an unpredictable change,” says Berry. “I have had some ‘rougher’ landings, but nothing that was severe.”

 

Being suspended in a basket thousands of feet above the ground has its risks, but Berry minimizes them by planning ahead.

 

“I believe that being prepared for flying and keeping up with safety and sharing information with other pilots is key to being a good pilot,” he says. “Superstition has no place in flying and being safe.”

 

Berry and his family returned to Poplar Bluff, Missouri in 2015 after he retired from a career at AT&T. He returns to Plano each September to participate in the balloon festival.

 

The In Touch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival relies on hundreds of volunteers to lift off each year. Volunteers will have an opportunity to sign up later this spring to join a balloon crew for a hands-on experience assisting visiting pilots.

 

 

COMMERCIAL PILOT SCOTT VESELY MAKES RETURN FLIGHT BACK TO PLANO

By: Morgan Kosinski

 

The InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival is thrilled to have the highly decorated, and equally charming, Scott Vesely return for what promises to be another epic flight.

At Dawn’s Early Light

A commercial balloon pilot since 1982, Vesely has been cruising the skies for decades.

 

Most recently, he led a team of twelve pilots at Dawn Patrol, a magical event at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

 

“There is nothing like flying Dawn Patrol in Albuquerque,” Vesely recalls wistfully, “We watch the sunrise over the Sandia Mountains and the traffic come onto the field. There is nothing like that type of flight.”

 

The AIBF explains, “The Dawn Patrol began at Balloon Fiesta in 1978, when two California balloonists developed position lighting systems that allowed them to fly at night. Dawn Patrol pilots take off in the dark and fly until it is light enough to see landing sites. Fellow balloonists appreciate the Dawn Patrol because they can watch the balloons and get an early idea of wind speeds and directions at different altitudes. On mass ascension days, about a dozen Dawn Patrol balloons perform the Dawn Patrol Show, a choreographed inflation and launch set to music that has been part of the Balloon Fiesta since 1996. Dawn Patrol inflations begin, weather permitting, at about 5:45 AM, with launch around 6:00 AM.”

 

Scott Vesely with Miss Texas inside his hot air balloon at the 2017 InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival.
Scott Vesely with Miss Texas inside his hot air balloon at the 2017 InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival.
A Family Affair

Ballooning also runs in the family. Kim Vesely shares her son’s passion for the unique sport, and collaborated on two popular books regarding the popular pastime:  “Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta” and Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and “The World Comes to Albuquerque — The Dream Takes Flight.”

Ready for Take-Off

 

“There is nothing that can compare to flying in the air,” Scott praises, “All the sites, sounds, and smells, all enhance the flying pleasure.”

Now a resident of Wylie, he is looking forward to flying the InTouch Credit Union balloon, (a 120,000 Lindstrand Regular Shaped balloon) at the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival, and that’s not just a lot of hot air.

InTouch Credit Union Hot Air Balloon
InTouch Credit Union Hot Air Balloon photo credit Michael Nguyen taken in 2017.

Keep your eye on the skies during the launch, competition, and crowd favorite, the balloon glow, for Vesely and his team at the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival.

PILOT JOSH GOLL & “STAR STEPPER”

Pilot Josh Goll and “Star Stepper” are among the 50 hot air balloons and pilots that came to the 2018 InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival. Even though they loaded up and made the trip with his family, the Festival was cancelled due to flooding. We’d like to show you his beautiful balloon and share his story.

 

Let’s reflect back to  to 2017 and his first time on the Festival field as a pilot. It is quiet on a Sunday morning. The air is still, and the only sound is the intermittent hiss of a propane burner. The number 16 balloon, Star Stepper, glides southwest over the launch field toward a target spray painted on the grass. The pilot, Josh Goll, gets within feet of the giant red X marking the spot. He tosses a bean bag at the target, and the watching crowd break the silence to cheer his win. Goll expertly piloted his balloon so close to the target at the Festival Fly-In Competition that a spectator might forget the breeze is in control of its direction.

 

Continue reading “PILOT JOSH GOLL & “STAR STEPPER””

WANT TO WIN A RIDE IN A HOT AIR BALLOON?

We’ve given away tickets and parking passes over the years. In fact, there have been a lot of giveaways of t-shirts, posters, and festival items. This contest is for a private ride in a hot air balloon with a pilot here in Plano the week of the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival at Oak Point Park. We’re not talking about a tethered ride where you hover above the ground and descend within minutes. It’s a bucket list experience to lift-off and fly in a majestic invention that doesn’t have a steering wheel, motor or wheels. A truly unforgettable adventure that ends with a champagne toast and a prayer.

THE BALLOONIST’S PRAYER

“May the winds welcome you with softness.
May the sun bless you with its warm hands.
May you fly so high and so well that God joins you in laughter
And sets you gently back into the loving arms of Mother Earth.”
~Author Unknown

 

The contest began last month and ends on Monday, September 17 at 8:00 p.m. CST. The date of the flight will be determined by the pilot but scheduled to take place between September 19-23 depending of course, on the weather.  Must be 18 years or older to enter the Hootsuite based campaign that will randomly select the winner to be contacted and announced on Facebook and social media channels.  The terms and conditions are detailed within the contest form. Are you ready to take flight?

 

TWENTY-YEAR VOLUNTEER REMEMBERS THE BEST OF THE PLANO BALLOON FESTIVAL

In 1998, a hot air balloon came to rest on a quiet street in Murphy, TX. Trevor Laswell was only seven years old and this captured his attention. He expressed his interest in wanting to get involved with ballooning to the pilot, who referred him to crew training at the Plano balloon festival. That same year, Laswell took his first ride in a balloon with Suzanne and Don Smith in their balloon Hours Stars. Laswell’s father, Steve Laswell, was the festival’s volunteer coordinator at the time helped get the young Laswell involved.

 

Laswell has been involved with the Plano Balloon Festival for 20 years, most recently serving on the balloon operations team, which ensures the safety of the pilots and spectators and assists with all the details of the actual balloons. He’s come a long way since he was seven. Continue reading “TWENTY-YEAR VOLUNTEER REMEMBERS THE BEST OF THE PLANO BALLOON FESTIVAL”

PILOTS SEEK VOLUNTEERS TO CREW HOT AIR BALLOONS

Have you ever wanted to learn more about hot air balloons? We are recruiting folks to help crew for pilots for the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival the weekend of September 21-23, 2018. Volunteers will learn to help with setting up, inflating, launching, and packing up the hot air balloons after a flight during regularly scheduled balloon activities at the festival. There are two flights a day and the morning crew meets at 6:00 a.m. and finishes around 10:00 a.m. The evening crew begins at 4:00 p.m. and finish by 8:00 p.m. Breakfast is provided for the morning shift and dinner is provided after the evening shift.

Hands-on training is scheduled for 6:00 a.m. on Saturday, September 15 at Oak Point Park in Plano, Texas. In the event of rain, the training session will take place on the following day, September 16 at the same location.

Volunteers must sign-up in advance to crew for a shift and select a time slot.   https://www.planoballoonfest.org/p/getinvolved/volunteers

Follow the conversation on the Facebook event page:  https://www.facebook.com/events/293047234795238/

Continue reading “PILOTS SEEK VOLUNTEERS TO CREW HOT AIR BALLOONS”

FESTIVAL RECRUITING 60 VOLUNTEERS FOR HOT AIR BALLOON CREW

2016 Volunteer Crew Training held at Oak Point Park for #PlanoBalloon
2016 Volunteer Crew Training held at Oak Point Park for #PlanoBalloon

Hello, my name is Steve Laswell and I am the Volunteer Crew Coordinator for the 2017 InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival. I would like to share with you and your group of some volunteer opportunities for the Plano Balloon Festival. We are recruiting folks to help crew for a Hot Air Balloon Pilot for our Festival on September 22, 23, and 24, 2017.

Continue reading “FESTIVAL RECRUITING 60 VOLUNTEERS FOR HOT AIR BALLOON CREW”

A PILOT AND THE 600 POUND BEAR

Bimbo® bear special shape hot air balloon.
Bimbo® bear special shape hot air balloon.

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

Pilot John Petrehn
Pilot John Petrehn

is headquartered in Horsham, Pennsylvania.  Standing 105 feet tall, the Bimbo® bear is 78 feet wide and weighs nearly 600 pounds.

This iconic white bear made its debut in July at the 34th annual QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning and will be a magical site to see September 23-25 at the 2016 InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival. www.planoballoonfest.org

Just look at the cute Bimbo® Bear’s face and say “Beembo.”™ It’s been pronounced this way in countries all over the world for over 65 years. – Bimbo Bakeries USA

Bimbo Bear and Golden High hot air balloons at the 2016 InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival Photo credit: The League Lady
Bimbo Bear and Golden High hot air balloons at the 2016 InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival | Photo credit: The League Lady

More information about the Bimbo brand is available at www.bimbousa.com.   View more photos of Bimbo Bear hot air balloon at the 2016 InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival on our Facebook page.

THE DOLPHIN IS A “SHE” BALLOON

Jason Myers, pilot and owner of The Dolphin Balloon Photo credit: The League Lady
Jason Myers, pilot and owner of The Dolphin Balloon
Photo credit: The League Lady

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.”

The Dolphin Jason Myers
The Dolphin

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.”

The Dolphin Balloon Basket
The Dolphin Balloon Basket

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.