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Green River BALLOON Festival! (Part 3) July 24, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Action/Adventure, music.
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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!!!  😉

…And The Balloons! July 20, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, music, Uncategorized.
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There’s not a lot that fires the imagination like hot air balloons, great bags of gas carrying adventurers skyward to who-knows-where, drifters on a canvas of sky, silent reminders of what is elegantly possible if we dare to dream.

I had the great pleasure of seeing a number of these stately beauties take form and take flight this past weekend and, thanks to the generosity of their owners, got an insider’s view of the goings-on.

The Green River Festival started 25 years ago as a gathering of a handful of hot-air balloonists with music added to entertain those who came to watch; now it’s a music festival of regional significance with a garnish of balloons.

But for those whose fancies take flight when the wind is just right, the balloons are still The Real Deal.

Here are some shots I got of the activities this past Saturday.

There is, of course, the group shot of balloons filling the sky:

..but what really interested me was the process  of getting those things up there.  It starts with the balloons spread out on the ground, with large fans filling them enough to make room for the flames of their engines.  The owners of a few were kind enough to let me get inside for a few shots:

The balloon fills and lifts ’till most of it is off the ground:

A different balloon, but I liked the geometry of that shot.

Eventually there’s enough room for the propane engines to do their thing (and that’s my cue to exit):

The whole works tilt upward with increasing urgency:

…’till it fills taught with the expectation of flight:

Then the paying passengers get on board for a memorable evening’s traverse of the valley, and they’re off:

…soaring above the festival and leeward bound!

Thanks to all of the pilots who let me horn in on their day in the sun, and to those who stuck around for the night-time illuminations:

And thanks to you all for sharing my weekend at the Green River Music and Balloon Festival!

(That’s their faithful mascot gracing the stage canopy at closing time.)

Green River Music And Balloon Festival! July 19, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in music.
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6 comments

Last weekend saw the 25th Annual Green River Music and Balloon Festival, with spectacular weather and superb weather.  The crowd was huge, filling an upper field by the main stage with tents and umbrellas:

…and a lower field with two more stages and a whole lot of Frisbees:

I timed my arrival to see the amazing NRBQ, a band from my youth, here reincarnated and cookin’:

…with the irrepressible Terry Adams at its helm:

For forty-plus years I’ve been blown away by his open-hand-and-forearm piano playing – he fronts a highly regarded  jazz band in NYC, so it’s not for lack of virtuosity that he plays rock that way.  He’s just… crazy!

There were also great sets by Black Joe Lewis and the Honey Bears:

…who tore it up on guitar, backed by a horn section which kicked butt.

Another great act was The Carolina Chocolate Drops, four kids who played an amazing blend of Americana and more modern stuff, including an air-bass-playing beat boxer:

…along with banjo, fiddle, jug, bones, washboard and more, and gorgeous ensemble vocals led by a beautiful young lady:

Highly recommended, if you get the chance.  😉

Also fun was Miss Tess and the Bon Ton Parade, featuring Miss Tess on vocals and guitar:

…and her sidekick, the Sweet and Lowdown:

She smoked!  (Figuratively, of course.)

The afternoon was punctuated by a children’s parade with a New Orleans theme:

…and lots of little kids and Mommies:

The three stages offered far more music than any one person could take in, but I tried – Locos Por Juana laid down some smoking Salsa in the dance tent, driven by a great trombonist:

Rosie Ledet and her Zydeco Playboys had the place jumping:

And to top it all off (for Saturday,  at least!) Toots and the Maytals brought the house down.

That’s Toots:

…and the Maytals:

I last saw Toots and the Maytals when I was in college, and I’ve never forgotten his high-energy show.  Amazingly, he’s still got that vibe, and a great band of old dust-farters who were probably with him since the early Seventies  (except for the ladies, who were a good deal younger.)

The night shots pushed my box to ISO 4000, but I think the results are a lot better than last year.  I was ruthless about getting in there and working the angles with Ollie, my 24-105mm L-Series lens.  Thanks, Ollie.  😉

I split during Toots’ encore, hoping to beat the traffic, but unfortunately enough others had that idea that it still took me an hour to get on the road!

Sunday was another full day of music culminating in a set by Emmylou Harris, but I could only afford one day.  Let’s just assume that it was equally fun.

Next time I’ll have some hot air balloon pics for you, but for tonight, that’s it.

G’Night!  🙂

Balloons. December 7, 2009

Posted by littlebangtheory in Uncategorized.
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I guess I better post these photos sooner rather than later, as there’s snow on the ground now and likely more where that came from, so they’ll look a little silly when the rest of my world turns white.

Last weekend, from the top of Mount Sugarloaf in South Deerfield, Massachusetts, looking south toward Amherst and the University of Massachusetts:

It was a good night for flying, and the balloons were out:

I didn’t have the lens I wanted for this, but then, one can’t have everything.

Another shot:

This one really does convey the feeling of floating above the reality of a Western Massachusetts landscape.  I’m kinda fond of this photograph.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Anyway, today it’s turned white; winter’s coming.  I feel it.  I see it.  I’m looking forward to it, consciously, perhaps mostly because of its inevitability.  I find myself to be not inclined to fight the passage of time, but rather to experience it as an external aspect of life which might or not be appreciated, as the observer chooses.

I choose to appreciate winter.  Doing so extends my participation in the world considerably.