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.
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:
Gold 1st Place Best Social Media
Gold 1st Place Best Organization Website
Gold 1st Place Best Promotional Brochure
Silver 2nd Place Best Event Website
Bronze 3rd Place Best Promotional Poster
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:
Silver 2nd Place Best Miscellaneous Clothing – Youth Runner Capes
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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”