In my last entry, I regaled you all with tales of the delicious Plano Balloon Festival, the 29th iteration of which I attended on Sunday, September 21. In addition to all the typical festival stuff — you know, free swag, expensive food and drink, pushy newspaper venders, and purveyors or every type of chintz you could imagine — there was also excruciatingly bad karaoke, which I don’t often see or hear (you were supposed to be able to win the karaoke machine). Oh, and there were numerous Balloons of Unusual Size, as well. It was fascinating just watching them get inflated. And as you can see, there was quite a crowd watching this day.
I think this photo will show you why inflating a hot air balloon can be a dangerous experience. That burner they heat the air with to fill up the balloon is basically a giant blow-torch.
Nothing caught on fire this time, which I’ve heard has happened once or twice, but one of the balloons was definitely singed a bit — it was smoking around the edges of the bottom opening (it wasn’t the one in the picture, though). Of course, those photos didn’t come out.
Otherwise, the whole balloon-launching event was pretty sedate, though it was strangely fascinating to watch these giant pear-shapes rise out of the launching field like massive, fast-growing mushrooms. In this picture, you can see a number of balloons in various states of inflation. It’s hard to tell, but there were two RE/MAX balloons in there.
While the balloon inflation process wasn’t real exciting, it was fascinating nonetheless, and I doubt anyone was particularly disappointed.
Sadly, we viewers learned that one of the balloonists had passed away the day before, so the others got together and did a “missing man” formation. Five balloons get ready to take off, then, as the balloon belonging to the missing man took off, the other four allowed their balloons to skate across the field and deflate before they took off. These photos show the event, in this order: the beginning; the deceased’s balloon heading into the sky; and the end of the remembrance. I thought the memorial was in very good taste.
There were many interesting balloons, but I just had to show you this one. It was among the first to take off.
Here go those RE/MAX balloons, along with the Allstate Insurance balloon. RE/MAX always has a big presence at the Plano Balloon Festival, probably because their corporate symbol is a balloon. As it turns out, RE/MAX does a lot of balloon festivals.
Incidentally, aside from the typical pear-shape balloons, they had a few oddities. Now, I’ve seen balloons shaped like 7-Up cans, tennis shoes, a giant flying tomato (the flagship of the wonderful Flying Tomato pizza restaurant, which is, alas, no longer with us), et freakin’ cetera. But a couple they had at this balloon fest took the cake, I thought. Take a look at this guy:
That’s Oggy the Dragon, there. Later on he managed to get on his feet and hang out with the other oddity, a tree-shaped balloon called “Woodrow.” Not only does Woodrow have inflated branches, there are three birds (two of them inflated) hanging out on the sides. It was pretty amazing.
Much to my dismay, neither Oggy nor Woodrow were cleared for take-off. I’m not clear on exactly why, but it may have had something to do with the winds. Anyhow, they were the last two balloons left on the field at the very end of the launching, and they just unceremoniously deflated.
Well, the Plano Balloon Festival is history for 2008. However, next year’s fest has already been scheduled for the same location on just about the same weekend in September: the 18th, 19th, and 20th. Next year’s will be the 30th annual event, so it’s sure to be bigger and more exciting than ever. To keep yourself apprised of what’s going on and who will be there, keep your eye on their official website at http://www.planoballoonfest.org/fest-facts.html. It cost just five bucks to get in this year, and I imagine that’s what they’ll charge in Y2.009K.