SIX TIPS FOR HOT PICS AT #PLANOBALLOON

Stephanie Johnson Hair Face Photo
Stephanie Johnson
Hair Face Photo

By guest contributor Stephanie Johnson

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.

Volunteer to Crew with Hot Air Balloon Pilots Sept 23-25

Balloon Chase Vehicle
Balloon Chase Vehicle

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 deadline to register as a balloon crew volunteer is September 18, 2016 and you may either email VolCrew@planoballoonfest.org or sign-up online: http://www.planoballoonfest.org/p/getinvolved/volunteers/registration

Timelapse video of Balloon Chase Crew by Chadwick Stelzl:

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.

PBF RACES: ALL ABOUT THE BLING & BALLOONS

Guest contributor:  Mike Kohl, Race Coordinator and Board of Directors, Plano Balloon Festival, Inc.

Plano Balloon 2015 logo
Plano Balloon 2016 logo

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.

T-shirts and medals for 2016
T-shirts and medals for 2016

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.

PBF Races Course Elevation Map
PBF Races Course Elevation Map

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.

Plano Balloon Earns Texas Festivals Awards of Excellence

Plano Balloon Festival Inc. brought home seven dazzling awards of excellence from the Texas Festival & Events Association (TFEA) annual conference and marketing competition. These five awards were presented to Jo Via and Jessica Jackson on behalf of the Plano Balloon Festival, Inc. for the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival in the category of events with a budget over $750k:

Jo Via and Jessica Jackson TFEA Awards Plano Balloon Festival Inc
Jo Via and Jessica Jackson at TFEA Accepting Awards of Excellence on behalf of Plano Balloon Festival, Inc.
  1.  Gold 1st Place Best Social Media
  2. Gold 1st Place Best Organization Website
  3. Gold 1st Place Best Promotional Brochure
  4. Silver 2nd Place Best Event Website
  5. Bronze 3rd Place Best Promotional Poster

 

 

 

TFEA Award of Excellence for Best Organization Website, Best Social Media, and Best Promotional Brochure presented to Plano Balloon Festival, Inc.
TFEA Award of Excellence for Best Organization Website, Best Social Media, and Best Promotional Brochure presented to Plano Balloon Festival, Inc.

Additionally, two awards were received for the Plano Balloon Festival Run Series, Half Marathon, 5K and 1K Fun Run in the category of events with a budget between $75k – $250k:

  1. Silver 2nd Place Best Miscellaneous Clothing – Youth Runner Capes
  2. Silver 2nd Place Best Other Merchandise – Finisher Medals

“Recognition, by those we consider peers in the Event Industry, is always a positive endorsement of our marketing efforts.  Credit is given to two individuals that are committed to producing at the highest level, Dan Stables, Stables Creative Group, and Cece Liekar-Campanini, The League Lady.  These two companies play a critical role in the marketing success of the Plano Balloon Festival, Inc.” – Jo Via, Executive Director, Plano Balloon Festival, Inc.

The TFEA Kaliff Marketing Awards recognize excellence in marketing campaigns that promote events and festivals across the State of Texas.  “The competition recognizes the creativity and professionalism of the TFEA industry. A record number of 488 entries were received in this year’s competition and Plano Balloon Festival, Inc. stands out among their peers every year.  TFEA congratulates Plano Balloon Festival, Inc. and all the award winners across the state,” comments Kay Wolf on behalf of the Texas Festivals & Events association.  TFEA is an official affiliate of the International Festivals & Events Association, the premier professional association supporting festival and event leaders worldwide.

September 23-25, 2016 the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival will be held at Oak Point Park showcasing this year’s theme: “Dazzling Autumn Skies.”   A full schedule of the festival activities, performances, and launch times may be found at www.planoballoonfest.org and volunteers may sign-up for a shift using the online form: http://www.planoballoonfest.org/p/getinvolved/volunteers. Runner registration for all races is available at www.pbfraces.org.

Connect with Plano Balloon:
Facebook:  Plano Balloon Festival
Facebook:  PBF Races
Twitter:  @planoballoon
Instagram:  #planoballoon
Pinterest:  PlanoBalloon
YouTube:  Plano Balloon Festival, Inc.

About Plano Balloon Festival, Inc.
The Plano Balloon Festival, Inc. is a non-profit 501c3 organized in 1987 for the purpose of staging a premier community-based and family-oriented hot air balloon event, offering other local non-profits volunteer opportunities within the Festival operations.  The Plano Balloon Festival, Inc. makes a direct impact on the Collin County community by dispersing funds to participating non-profit agencies and has donated more than $2.5 million since inception.

View the full list of  2016 TFEA Marketing & Communication Award Winners in pdf format.

Calabrette Crew Pilots Big Red Balloons

Crew2
Calabrette Crew – Big Red Again
From the moment Joe and Sue Calabrette first saw a hot air balloon flying over the Dallas skyline in 1979, they were hooked. Living in Plano at the time, Joe bought a flight for Sue as a birthday present.
Upon arrival at the field, Joe realized the flight was for two people, and they both hopped aboard. Their first flight lasted two hours and flew them from Mesquite to Duncanville, over dozens of fields and several airports. Not long after, Joe began training for his pilot’s license with the owner of the balloon. He became a commercial pilot in order to train his wife and take others up in their first balloon, the Big Red.
They have had three balloons since they began flying, all red balloons with blue accents. Their newest balloon, Big Red Again, is a combination of the first two designs and names. Three is an impressively low number of balloons for how often they fly, which they attribute to the tremendous care of each hot air balloon.
Big Red Again
Big Red Again

Not long after becoming balloonists, Joe and Sue helped start the Plano Ballooning Association. They have been a part of the Plano Balloon Festival since its inception, acting as liaisons to the ballooning club. They acted as the co-chairmen for the second Plano Balloon Festival in 1981 and have served as the Balloonmeister several times. The Balloonmeister is the unofficial captain of any ballooning event, overseeing the other balloonists and ensuring their safety. They have the final say in whether the balloons can fly. For example, if this year’s Festival is too windy or the conditions are poor for flying or landing, the Balloonmeister may delay the launch to ensure the safety of the pilots and crew.

In 1996 Joe and Sue moved to California, taking their balloon with them. Unlike Texas, Californian balloonists can only fly in the morning, before the winds get too high. Generally, balloonists avoid flying in wind speeds of over 7 mph.
One of their most harrowing flying experiences took place in Morgan Hill, California. Joe had gone up with a family friend and her elderly aunt. They were already up in the air when Tule Fog, ground fog mostly seen in California’s Great Central Valley, gathered underneath them. The fog was so dense they could see the reflection of their balloon in the fog below, and nothing of the ground.
Unable to see where to land, Joe descended slowly, looking for trees and other obstacles. He finally found the parking lot of the reservoir, where he was able to land on the steep hill surrounding the area. The family friend jumped out and tied the balloon to a nearby boulder before the balloon could take off again. When Sue and the rest of their ground crew found them, they were tied to the rock and being blown in the wind.
Big Red Again at Super Glow Texas 2016 American Airlines Center
Big Red Again at Super Glow Texas 2016
American Airlines Center

They have returned to Plano in recent years and have continued to attend the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival, missing fewer than five since its inception. While they no longer fly people commercially, they enjoy flying both locally and nationally and can often be seen over the Plano skyline in their gorgeous red balloon.

BALLOONIST’S CARD IS GOLDEN KEEPSAKE

Guest contributor Ali Weiss, local freelance writer.

If you ever receive a balloonist’s card, keep it. Just like baseball or Pokemon cards, a balloonist’s card is an important symbol of who they’ve met over the years while traveling. Richard, owner of the Golden High Balloon, has countless cards from people he’s met around the world.

Richard began flying as a small plane pilot. Upon receiving his pilot’s license, he would fly to New York City with dates. He loved the freedom of flying, but being a pilot is also incredibly restrictive, from filing flight plans to no drinking.

In 1989, he was introduced to hot air balloons through Re/Max, where he worked in Augusta, Georgia.  “The first flight is free, the next one is $30,000.”

He bought his first hot air balloon from Re/Max and now owns his third balloon. Golden High is a custom designed balloon, which means he went to the manufacturer to choose the size, the color each fabric panel color and design from the basket up to the parachute valve.

“I’ve flown over 900 hours, including Italy, Yugoslavia, and across the United States,” says the pilot.

Golden High Balloon - Pilot Richard Ret
Golden High Balloon – Pilot Richard Ret

Whether overseas or at home, his favorite place to fly has always been the mountains. When he’s not working for United Real Estate he spends his time ballooning in festivals, including the world’s largest festivals: the Lorraine Mondial Festival and the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.

Near to his Dallas home, Golden High participates in his favorite event, the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival. A lover of small festivals as well as large, Richard enjoys the all weekend  event as much as the rest of us. His first experience, when he moved here in 2010, also introduced him to his crew, who were volunteers. Now, he and his crew are close friends; they travel with him to many of his events.

On the day of the festival, Richard and his team will wake up while we’re still counting sheep and head out to the field to fuel up. Then lay out the balloon and inflate it with a fan before heating the air with the burner just in time for takeoff after sunrise.

Once they’re up in the air, the wind will take them until they can find a place to land. Landing is a bit of skill and a lot of luck since the balloon has no way to steer. Before they launch, they study the wind patterns and plot out several options for landing.

Even with all their planning, landing is a game of chance. They try to avoid landing on private property, so they aim for public land or parks, which aren’t always massive open areas designed for a large hot air balloon to land.

Once safely on the ground, they embrace the 200-year old tradition of the Balloonist’s Prayer, and of course, champagne. They’ll then refuel and return to the festival for the evening launch before regrouping for the hot air balloon glow at sunset.

Golden High, Richard, and his crew will be on the field among the many hot air balloons September 23-25, 2016 at the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival. Admission is only $5 and the full schedule of activities available on the website: www.planoballoonfest.org.

Safety First, Adventure Second

Guest contributor: Susan Zacheis

“Safety first” has always been my motto as an overprotective mother of two. In addition to being a neurotic mother, I am also afraid of heights, so the thought of being miles above the ground in a hot air balloon was a little terrifying. However, my sense of adventure prevailed through the research for this blog.

I got up bright and early on a recent Saturday morning to be part of a volunteer crew training session with some of the pilots and their balloons. It was a beautiful sunrise at Oak Point Park with not a bit of wind, or so I thought. Keith Berry, pilot of “Highly Cool”, said they wouldn’t be able to hold the balloon competition because of the windy conditions. I was quite surprised and notably the first clue that these guys might just follow my “Safety First” motto. Continue reading “Safety First, Adventure Second”

To Hill, or Not To Hill – The Half Marathon Dilemma

Guest blogger: Erica Haynes

September has arrived and the City of Plano will host their biggest event of the year, the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival. The festival will run from Friday September 19 through Sunday the 21. This event does a great job of offering a source of fun and entertainment for everyone. There’s food, hot air balloons, concerts, kid areas and much more, so how could this weekend possibly get better? End it with a half marathon of course!

About a year and half ago I started running, and very shortly after I wanted to do a half marathon. I always had my mind set on the Plano Balloon Festival Half Marathon, however I was terrified after someone mentioned that the course was very hilly. At the time, I would consider myself to be an infant runner, I did not understand that it’s next to impossible to find a flat half marathon and hills make you a better runner. Fast forward a year and I’m back at the dilemma again of do I attempt to battle the hills?

Of course I want battle the hills, but I need to at least drive the course to get some sort of an idea of the actual elevations. What one person considers hilly, another will call flat so it’s best to drive a course if possible to get your own feeling about the course. I set out in my car and drove what I could of the course. Yes, I saw two hills that made me question why I would run this race but then I realized something important. Two hills over 13.1 miles is a pretty good ratio, and the view the hills offers are absolutely amazing. The drive around the course was peaceful, and I can only imagine what it would be like to actually run it.

Finisher Medal

The beautiful parks, trees, clear view of the sky, the neighborhood, and the small lake eased any nervousness I had about the course. I strongly believe this is the ideal local half marathon to run. Not only does the course offer scenery you can’t get while sitting in a car, the swag is amazing. Each half marathoner will get a technical shirt, VIP parking pass, catered breakfast (yum), custom finisher’s medal, and two tickets to the festival.

I look forward to Sunday, September 21 when I’m standing at the starting line watching the balloons float up and away in the sky. I’m excited for the sound of running a race with other runners by my side supporting me, and me doing the same for them along a beautiful course. The medal, which is the most important part to some, will be the greatest and most priceless achievement. It is the concrete symbol of accomplishment that I hope to be wearing soon. Register online and join me at the epic Plano Balloon Festival Half Marathon adventure.

Honors Show Plano Is The Balloon Capital of Texas

This summer the Plano Balloon Festival, Inc. received an incredible list of honors during the marketing awards competition at the annual Texas Festivals and Events Association (TFEA) Conference in Austin, Texas. The awards given were for marketing materials designed for the event last year that was themed “Paint the Skies”.

More than 430 entries were submitted across this great State of Texas and we are so proud to have been recognized in multiple categories for our marketing efforts. The 1st Place honors included: Event Website, Best Promo Brochure, Best Misc Printed Material, Best Event Photograph, and Best Other Merchandise. The 2nd place honors included: Best Event Poster, Best Event T-Shirt Design, and Best Hat. The 3rd place honor was for Best T-Shirt Design.

This year the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival includes a new theme “Alive with Color” to be held September 19-21, 2014 at Oak Point Park in Plano, TX. Additional details and the schedule of events for the festival are available here: http://www.planoballoonfest.org/event-information

Read the full press release published via PR Newswire Services on July 28, 2014: “Plano Balloon Festival, Inc. Receives Texas Marketing Awards”