“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.