Every September something truly magical happens in Midland at the fairgrounds.
For two days the morning and evening skies are speckled with the amazing beauty of hot air balloons, courtesy of the annual Remax Balloon Festival – an exceptional inviting the ‘Best of the Best’ to show off their beautiful balloons and share the joy of ballooning with the community.
This is truly a sport filled with amazingly generous people. Admission to this event is free unless of course you would like to donate a food item to the food bank of Midland County. They also take the time to share this event with every elementary school in Midland, free of charge.
For many years I have watched in amazement as they took to the skies, floated over my house, and provided a spectacular light show at the Afterglow. Giant lanterns glow across the fairgrounds, delighting the eyes and soul.
This year I was lucky enough to be asked to accompany my friend Kay McEntee on a journey into the sky. At 6:20 am we met with our pilot, Mr. Mark Enszer who lives in Saginaw, MI, and his lovely wife and crew who own the beautiful balloon “Celebration“. We watched in awe as six different balloons, including ours, set up and got ready for flight. As we climbed into the basket my excitement overtook my fear as we floated high above the trees.
Mark, who is a UPS driver by day, did an incredible job pointing out every detail of the city and answering any questions we had along the way. We floated for about 55 min making it all the way out to Messiah Lutheran Church where we had the most picture perfect landing in the parking lot. After touching the ground and helping tear down the balloon, Mark asked us if we would like to tag along to Adams Elementary School, so of course we jumped at the opportunity.
When we arrived we met another pilot, Mr. Jeremy Droscha who lives in Charlotte, MI and flies the balloon named “Nemesis”. This is where we got a full hands-on crew experience, learning to inflate, set it up and of course tear it down. You would be surprised at how heavy the balloons are when they are laying on the ground.
The children came out quietly and listened intently as Mark gave a wonderful presentation on Hot Air Ballooning, answering any questions they had to ask. When he was done we began to inflate the balloons, the looks on their little faces were priceless as they watched in amazement as the balloons rose up off of the ground and into the air.
Kay and I were lucky enough to be sitting on the edge of Jeremy’s basket to help weigh it down, as the children came up one by one to get a look inside the basket and up into the tops of the balloons.
Their screams of fear and excitement filled the air as Jeremy and Mark would light the igniter to demonstrate how the heat from the flames helps the balloon rise into the air. The kids were delightful, the crew was a joy to spend the day with.
After talking with Jeremy earlier in the day, he mentioned that he could use crew later that evening. So I asked my son Jacob if he would like the opportunity to learn about balloons and how they work. He jumped at the opportunity because he loves to fly and wants to be a medi-vac pilot.
So back to the fair grounds we went, where we met up with Jeremy, his lovely wife Jessica, and his brother Jacob. We quickly jumped in with no hesitation. I think after Friday night my son was hooked and wanted to go back again. So I sent Jeremy a text and asked if he needed crew for Saturday night, and he very graciously said yes, come on over.
It was extremely windy and I learned even more about ballooning, chasing them, and the physical endurance it takes to truly do this sport. Seeing as though you can’t steer a balloon you are basically at the mercy of Mother Nature. You really have no choice as to where you land or what direction you are going to go, as it is all dictated by wind direction.
I learned that some landowners are not very happy when you land on their property; I learned that sometimes you have to carry the balloon and the basket out of fields and swamps. I learned the each balloon has different weight limits and that some are built for speed, some are built for leisure, and some just for show.
All in all I had the most incredible time, memories, and amazing photos to last me a lifetime. A very large thank you to Mark Enszer & crew and to Jeremy Droscha and crew for allowing us to be a part of this amazing weekend!
I am delighted and humbled that my son and I were asked to come back and crew for “Nemesis“ again next year. A huge thank you should goes out as well to all the people who donate their time and money to make this a wonderful event for our community.
If you missed it this year, I highly recommend you mark your calendars for it next year!