So you've got a certain fascination with hot air balloons? You wonder what it would be like to take a ride, floating up in the sky and looking out across the horizon? You're not alone.... it is on the bucket list of many. But why wait any longer to make that dream come true? The pilot list is up at www.carolinaballoonfest.com and some of the pilots would be happy to reserve you a spot in their balloon!
While we believe any balloon flight is a good one, flying at Carolina BalloonFest is a special experience. Look around you and about 50 other balloons are floating in all directions. When you ascent from the field, you will probably be cheered by a crowd, waving and wishing you well. Quite honestly, quite a few of those folks in that crowd will be wishing they were you!
So what's the experience like? Let's see. The noise of the propane burner may make you jump a bit at first and you'll feel the heat of the burn, but often you don't even notice as you leave the ground. You might notice a little flip flop in your stomach, but if you are like most passengers that feeling will quickly dissipate and suddenly you will feel at complete peace. Most people comment that it is far quieter than they anticipated....well, other than the occasional sound of that propane burner! Even with all of the balloons that go up together at a balloon festival, you don't hear a lot of noise once you get beyond the crowd. Still, even in the quiet, often when you are traveling over neighborhoods, you will feel that you have superhuman hearing. You can often hear conversations of those below. Sometimes you will feel the need to join in.
Often you'll see folks below watching in their yards, or parking their car along the side of the road to watch. At times those cars look like they are very close....at times they look very far away. Notice the animals. The pilots try to pay attention when there are animals around, because animals often react keanly to the sound of the propane burner. You may see deer running at top speed.
Check out the landmarks in the area. Even if you're not from around the Statesville area, you may recognize places you saw on the drive in. You'll often be able to find the chase vehicle that is following you. If not, your pilot will probably be in contact with them on the radio.
How long will your balloon ride be? It's impossible to say. Usually they last around an hour, but the pilot is paying attention to fuel, weather conditions and potential landing spots. Any of those things can impact the length of the ride.
A few things to think about. First of all you have to climb in that basket. Some of you will be quite graceful, others... not so much. That's OK....grace is not required. You just need to get in there! Wear clothes that make it easy. If you think climbing in the basket is going to be an issue, talk to the pilot or their crew chief when booking your flight and let them know about any possible limitations. Don't wait until you get there and possibly get turned away. These pilots care about your safety and will do all they can to make a ride happen for you, but also will be honest with you if they think there will be issues. Balloon baskets are different (a few pilots have baskets that are handicapped accessible) and pilots have different abilities and capabilities and rules regarding passengers. Make sure that you find the right one for you before you book.
The cost for rides at this year's festival is $225 per person. Think that is a lot of money? It is, but it is actually less than a lot of private ride operators charge. And think about this. The minimum cost of a balloon is about the same cost as a car. They have a chase crew that is there to help set up, follow you in flight and take down. The chase crew drives a vehicle that not only must accommodate the size of the balloon, but pilot and crew and passengers afterward. They must have insurance on all of this. Your pilot has been trained as a commercial pilot and regularly attends safety seminars to keep their education current. They have to have communication devices and navigation devices and safety gear. Let's just put it this way....it's a tough sport to get rich in!
To book a ride, go to http://www.carolinaballoonfest.com. In the banner at the top, click on "Pilots and Flights" Scroll down the page and see pictures of the balloons that will be at Carolina BalloonFest this year. If a pilot will be offering rides, there will be a green link to their contact information (email, phone number, or both.) Contact them, and set up an experience of a lifetime! And yes, if this is the time you are thinking about popping the question, this is a memorable way to do it. People get engaged every year at BalloonFest and we have even had some marriages in the skies along the way!
Keep scrolling down, and there is a great question and answer section at the end of the pilot page.....scroll down and read it for great tips before you take your ride.
There are some people who like to watch the balloons at BalloonFest from a lawn chair, or streched out on a blanket, gazing up at the sky. Is that you? Or do you watch and say "Awwwww......I wish I could do that!"
Well, you can! We're currently looking for some really great people to serve as chase crew at our balloon festival October 18-20. What do chase crews do? They are there when the balloons go up, both morning and early evening. They help put the balloon up, watch it fly away, then quickly load their chase vehicle to follow the balloon. Their goal is to be there when it lands. When it does, they help take the balloon down and then return to the field.
While almost anyone can crew, we do have a few preferences.
• You must be able to listen and follow directions. Our pilots and our crew chiefs are responsible for the safety of the balloon, the passengers, the crew, the chase vehicle, and the spectators. There is a lot of activity at a festival and you must be able to listen to them and do what they say. They are in charge.
• We'd prefer people who can commit to crew for the whole weekend. That gives your pilot some consistency and allows you to find out how they like things done. You'll be exhausted at the end, but we think you will feel it was time well spent! If you can't commit for the weekend, let us know when you can be there. Sometimes we need people for certain flights and not others.
• You must be responsible....if you say you're going to be there, you need to be there. Don't leave the pilots scrambling at the last minute to find help.
• You must be in at least average health, able to bend a bit and help lift heavy items.
• Navigational skills help. The equipment in the chase vehicles vary. Some have laptops and GPS. Some have paper maps. Some go with the eyeball method.....they want you to keep them in your line of sight. When they land, you need to figure out how to get to them. If you are local and know the area well, let the crew coordinator know that up front so he can match you with a pilot who may not know the area quite as well.
• While there are no major age restrictions (we have awesome crew in their 80s!), we prefer you not to bring young children. Your first responsibility needs to be to a safe inflation and landing of the balloon, and if children need a lot of supervision it just may not be the best place for them (or for you since you should be focused on them.) You will see many parents with their older children crewing together, however. It can be a fun family activity. Use good judgment and talk to our crew coordinator before you bring children along.
• There will be some need for some people to drive chase vehicles. Are you comfortable driving other people's vehicles? Are you licensed and safe? Have you driven large vehicles and pulled trailers? Let our crew coordinator know! Some pilots come alone and need a responsible driver to drive their chase vehicle. (If you don't want to drive, it's fine. There are plenty of spots where it is not necessary.)
You can sign up for chase crew at the "Volunteer" page on our website; scroll to locate 'Balloon Crew'. You can complete you application and see a video of pilot Tom Rousch and his volunteer crew packing up a balloon. Our crew coordinator Daniel will match you up with a pilot and will put you in contact with them.
If you are fascinated by balloons and want to be a part of the action, we encourage you to join us as chase crew for BalloonFest weekend. It's a great time to meet people in our local ballooning community and provide hospitality to those pilots who come to our area for the festival. And you get to be part of the organized chaos that results in over 50 balloons floating over Statesville.
You weren't planning to spend your Friday night laying on the couch and watching TV, were you? Noooooo! You should start that weekend off with a bang by doing a little dancing in the street! Free entertainment, courtesy of Piedmont HealthCare. The band too MUCH Sylvia will be performing. Bring chairs; no pets or coolers are allowed. Beverages and food will be available for purchase.
On The Breeze ~
Festival news about
Rain or Shine... Carolina BalloonFest is open October 20-22, 2017!
Hot Air Balloon Flights are scheduled twice daily; early morning & late afternoon. All ballooning activities including static display, tethered rides and balloon flights are weather dependent. The decision to inflate hot air balloons is made just prior to the scheduled ballooning activity. Due to limited entrance points into our festival, guests are encouraged to purchase advance tickets and plan to PARK by 1 PM to attend late afternoon launches. Tickets are non-refundable.
National Balloon Rally Charities, Inc. is an incorporated 501(c)(3) charitable organization and all contributions are tax deductible. A portion of proceeds raised through Carolina BalloonFest and Carolina Roots MusicFest is distributed to local nonprofit organizations. PO Box 267 ~ Statesville NC 28687