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.
“My favorite part as a kid was getting to play around,” Laswell says. “The festival made me grow up and turned me into a responsible human being because it’s all about safety around balloons.” Being a part of the festival for two decades has it benefits, like getting to hitch a ride.
“When you’re in the basket of the balloon, you see the world from a different perspective – from the way God created the world. I feel like I’m going to church,” says Laswell. “It’s so quiet. The only sound you hear is that pop of the burners. I feel safe up there.”
The folks at the festival have impacted Laswell in a life-changing way. He speaks passionately about how they have guided and taught him over the years.
“The festival feels like a home to me,” Laswell says. “Every time I go to a meeting for to the festival, I feel like I’m around family.”
The 2018 InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival will be Laswell’s last one, at least for a while, and he plans to make the most of it by embracing this year’s theme, “Release Your Inner Child.” He posted to Facebook about this saying, “The Plano Balloon Festival will always have a special place in my heart! It will always be a magical time in my life! It will always be the place where I grew up to learn morals and to be a good person! But it’s time for me to move on and chase the adventure of LIFE!”
Some of the good morals he learned were to help other, contribute to the team and serve others. Laswell learned how he can add to the greater good of the festival, and now he sees how those lessons spill over into everyday life.
“[The festival] taught me how to be self-less, not selfish,” he says, sentimentally.
There’s no denying that ballooning is a lot of work, but it creates a lot of enjoyment for those in the basket and those on the ground. Laswell, a clown by trade, sees the festival as a big stage. Seeing the bright eyes of awe-struck kids in the crowd lets him know that he’s done a good job for the city of Plano.
In October, Laswell plans to get married and move to Massachusetts where he will attend cosmetology school.
InTouch Credit Union Plano Balloon Festival is a three-day event that kicks off at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, September 21. Buy tickets online or at participating InTouch Credit Union branch locations. Volunteers are still needed to assist balloon crews. Sign up online to volunteer and get involved. Follow the festival on Facebook and Twitter for the latest updates.