“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.



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.




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””


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.



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.


“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?



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”


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.

Follow the conversation on the Facebook event page:



By guest contributor:  Iain McCorquodale

#PBFRaces Starting Line - Iain and Alisa McCorquodale
#PBFRaces Starting Line –
Iain and Alisa McCorquodale

My wife and I lost a close friend to a brain tumor in July of this year, and committed to run one half marathon a month over the next 12 months to raise funds for Marie Curie, a UK charity that provides care and support for people living with any terminal illness. More details can be found at  We are also substituting one of the half marathons for the 2018 London Marathon, the biggest in the world. So far, with the help of friends and business associates, Alisa and I have raised around £5554.50 for the charity, but with 10 more runs to go we are hopeful to raise more. Continue reading “TEAM MARIE CURIE FINISH THE PLANO BALLOON FESTIVAL HALF MARATHON”


Tethered rides at InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival (photo credit: David Downs Photography)
Tethered rides at InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival (photo credit: David Downs Photography)

Live life in color and take a tethered ride in a hot air balloon at the 2017 InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival that will be the weekend of September 22-24 at Oak Point Park. A tethered ride is when the hot air balloon lifts up and off the ground, it then hovers 20-30 feet above the field for several minutes, but the balloon won’t launch or fly away into the sky. This is a unique opportunity to experience the sensation of being in a hot air balloon with a licensed pilot. Continue reading “HOT AIR BALLOON TETHERED RIDES AT INTOUCH CREDIT UNION PLANO BALLOON FESTIVAL”


InTouch Credit Union Balloon
InTouch Credit Union Balloon

It’s August and the temperature is rising above triple digits here in the Lone Star State.  In the “Land of Enhatchment” the heat is cranked up even more in celebration of 22 years as the “hatchiest place on Earth” at Central Market.  Last Thursday local pilot Scott Vesely inflated and tethered the InTouch Credit Union hot air balloon in the parking lot at the Central Market location at 320 Coit Road in Plano.