Green River BALLOON Festival! (Part 3) July 24, 2012Posted by littlebangtheory in Action/Adventure, music.
Tags: 2012, bagpiper, ballooning, Canon 16-35mm f/3.5L lens, Eric Goodchild, green river festival, hot air balloons, Jonathan Niccum, Paul Sena, Worthington Ballooning
When the Green River Festival began 26 years ago, it was largely a hot-air ballooning event with a few musical acts hired to entertain those gathered to see that spectacle.
Sadly, by this year’s event, the balloons seem to be little more than an afterthought.
That’s not to say anything less than respectful about the event as a music festival, but rather to lament the diminution of the magic which is evoked when one sees these beautiful behemoths floating incongruously off into the blue July sky.
I made it part of my mission to document this year’s ballooning, at the cost of missing some of the music; hey, there’s only one of me!
Anyway, the balloonists pull into town on Saturday afternoon, staking out their staging turf in the lower field, waiting for the air to cool and thicken, and for the evening breezes to (hopefully) begin to stir.
This is the first year I took the time to watch the process literally unfold:
The spread-out balloons are attached to their baskets, then partially filled with large fans. The field becomes a rippling sea of color:
Ground crews pull fabric outward as the envelope inflates:
…button up baffles and attach tag lines:
When the balloons are inflated enough, propane burners are fired up. It’s a dramatic moment – here pilot/owner Jonathan Niccum fires up Day Dreamer:
…and the field comes alive with the magic!
Pilots and riders pile in, the engines fire again, and up they go! Some stick around, giving “tethered” rides for small money:
..while others cast off their lines and float elegantly away, going wherever the winds take them:
But don’t cry, Dorothy – they’ll be back before nightfall. After all, they wouldn’t want to miss the 9pm Balloon Glow!
It’s beautiful, and gets a lot of “Ooohs” and “Aaaahs” from the appreciative crowd.
The next morning is another opportunity for sailing off into the dawn air. Local piper Eric Goodchild set the mood as the sun breached the horizon:
…and the process begins again, crews and pilots working, watching the weather, wishing for just a wee bit of wind. Balloon Coordinator and Master Pilot Paul Sena went about his work efficiently, the result of many years of honing his skills:
…hooking up tanks, testing his engine:
When the whole thing came together, lightly dancing on the dewy grass, Paul smiled and called to me, “Hop in!”
I didn’t make him say it twice!!
…and we were off!
Children ran to pick up a shower of Worthington Ballooning business cards (that be Paul’s gig) as we gained altitude, chasing the early departed:
…chased by those just cutting themselves loose:
What an amazing experience it was to be floating soundlessly, watching the Earth recede, rising over the valley farms:
…floating past forests and fields:
…surrounded by beauty:
Paul’s piloting was masterful as he checked the altimeter with each puff of breeze, mapping the varying air currents in his mind, then rising or falling to catch a breeze going his way:
There’s a quiet camaraderie among the folks who float over the dawning day, a shared peace tempered with the cautions which accompany any such endeavors, and I was thankful to be sharing it:
Paul “boxed” the valley, moving around the area at different heights, taking cues about wind direction from our fellow travelers as I marveled at the broad horizon:
…and then gently descended to the festival grounds, landing (with a helping tug from his ground crew) right where he wanted to be for the final photo-op of our flight:
After the work of packing the balloons away, the pilots and crew assembled in the First Aid tent to carry on an age-old tradition, sharing a bottle of Champagne with the land-owners where you happen to come down:
…which, they gleefully noted, was US!
So that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. Thanks to Jonathan Niccum for putting in a good word with Paul, to Paul Sena of Worthington Ballooning for his generosity and skill, to Joe for hopping out and giving us that last bit of momentum to enable the spiffy parking job…
…start ckickin’ them heels together, Joe…
…and to my Sweet Sixteen, my Canon 16-35mm L-Series lens for delivering the goods.
Next up, if I can stand another day of sitting in front of my ‘puterbox: Sunday’s musical line-up. I promise to be brief, on account MY BUTT IS GETTING SORE!!!