There is a special magic in the air every September when Remax of Midland hosts its annual Balloon Festival. This year they were celebrating 22 years of pure magic and joy despite the weather being a bit nasty on Thursday night for the glow downtown. But much to everyone's surprise, Mother Nature delivered a spectacular weekend for both pilots and spectators.
Early Friday morning we all met at the Fairview Inn. During this time pilots get a briefing on weather, wind speeds, who will be in their balloons, and what schools they will be assigned to. As we waited patiently to see whose balloon we would be going up in, we chatted with the pilots we'd met the year before. Then it was time to take off and Mr. Wayne Crosby assigned us to a gorgeous balloon called “The Double Yellow “ that was just as bright as a sunny day.
Piloted by Charles “Chuck” Polonowski, a retired school teacher from Rockford, our crew consisted of two Andrews and another pilot named Shelly Sperry who owns a balloon called “Hocus Pocus”. He said the balloon was named by his grandkids because it always disappeared like magic up in the sky.
So we headed off to our launch site and got ready to fly. It was a beautiful morning for a balloon ride and the winds were just perfect, with a slight chill in the air. As we drifted out and over the business district over Wal-Mart, The Residence Inn, Springhill, Plant Fitness even Chemical Bank and over places I never even knew were there.
Things are so different when you are up so high; it takes a minute to get your bearings. And as we gracefully landed into freshly cut hay field, we headed back to the hotel where our pilots were heading off to their assigned school.
For the past 10 years Remax and the Balloonists have graciously donated their time to schools in Midland to share their love of Ballooning and to answer the many questions of the K- 5th grade crowds. Friday night they had a great launch out of the fair grounds and of course that was the first night of the afterglow. Saturday morning was beautiful for a flight. The rest of the day was spent competing in all sorts of challenges - one of which includes landing on targets for points.
The Gerstacker building came alive with several beloved characters from the Star Wars movies. Live Music filled the air as the skydivers took to the skies showing off there landing skills. Saturday night my son and I had the privilege of crewing again with Jeremy Droscha on his balloon “Nemesis“, which is soon to be retired due to age.
So instead of flying he decided to tether his balloon and give rides to some pretty surprised children and their families. His wife Jessica, the 3 Jacob's and I had so much fun watching the kids as they took off to float up into the unknown. To see the sparkle in their eyes and to watch a family who enjoys this sport so much share it with so many, was a treat to witness.
I think when they took the young lady with Aspergers Syndrome up it was a huge milestone for her and a truly amazing thing for myself to witness. Its a lot of hard work helping with a Balloon, but its one experience I am so glad I have had the privilege to be a part of. The afterglow on Saturday night was glorious and all in all it was an amazing weekend for all that attended.
* Photos by Kay McEntee