SPECIAL SHAPE HOT AIR BALLOONS & PILOTS

Among the more than 50 hot air balloons at the InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival you’ll find a handful of special shapes that evoke love, joy, swashbuckling fun, and even make you meow.

 

Celebrating 40 Years of Ballooning in Plano, we proudly share these as the beloved special shapes and pilots participating in 2019.  And if you’d like to volunteer to get a hands-on experience with the balloons then sign-up for a shift with a hot air balloon crew. Volunteers help with inflation, lift-off, landings, the evening glow, and receive a free festival shirt.

BIMBO BEAR – PILOT:  JOHN PETREHN

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PILOT STEVE JONES BALLOONING FOR 43 YEARS AROUND THE WORLD

You could say it was love at first flight. Steve Jones’ father attended the US National Balloon Championships in Indianola, Iowa, in 1976, working on a balloon crew and then riding in the balloon. He called Steve on his way home, raving about the experience and trying to convince Steve to partner with him and buy a balloon. Steve was certain that his dad had lost his mind; nevertheless, he consented and soon thereafter he was hooked on the experience. He earned his pilot’s license, a requirement for balloon piloting, and became a member of the ballooning community, enjoying the camaraderie and the competitions.

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BITTEN BY THE BALLOONING BUG

They say time flies when you’re having fun. It certainly must, because it’s been over 30 years since his first flight, and Michael Scott is still having fun. In October 1987, Scott and his family visited the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta while on vacation.

 

 

“We found a balloon that we had seen flying [back home] in Oklahoma City and crewed for them that week. My father got a short flight during that week, and he was bitten by the ballooning bug. We bought our first balloon about six weeks later,” recalls Scott.

 

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AN UNLIKELY PILOT – GUY GAUTHIER

An Unlikely Pilot – Guy Gauthier written by Maridee Dietzel

 

Guy Gauthier was terrified. Being afraid of heights, he realized that taking a ride in a hot air balloon may not have been his best idea. He survived, but as he walked away, Guy declared, “I’ll never buy one of those things!”

 

He and his six brothers would pursue ground-level sports. However, after competing in motorcycle racing for a number of years, the siblings were looking for a new, less messy sport that they could participate in and still be clean enough to be welcome in restaurants or even in their homes. Several more refined pastimes were mentioned, such as hang gliding, sailing, speedboating, and yes, even ballooning.

 

That was on a Sunday evening. On Wednesday, Guy received a call from one of his brothers, telling him, “We just bought a balloon, and your part is $3000.”

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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!

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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!”

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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.

 

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CHARITABLE SPIRITS LIFT UP THE PLANO BALLOON FESTIVAL

Throughout the 39 years of producing this annual tradition within North Texas, the Plano Balloon Festival, Inc. has never experienced such a devastating loss.  The Festival is not a large corporate entity, but rather a 501(c)3 non-profit organization led by 13 Board of Directors. The sadness, and significant economic loss, is shared with the 58 local non-profits, 75 vendors, dozens of sponsors, pilots, crew, and more than 5,000 volunteers who were committed to the event.

 

The Festival mission is to produce a family-oriented ballooning event to benefit the community. The objective is to also offer other non-profits an opportunity to assist with the operations of the Festival and raise funds. These agencies work the gates, parking lots, kids fun zone and the races. For their services these non-profits are compensated a portion of the revenue. However, this year they earned no money to apply towards their impactful programs within the community.

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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”