July 14th was media day. As a blogger, I got the chance to go up, up and away in a hot air balloon with the pilots that would be flying over Vermilion County Illinois during the July 15-16 weekend.
My daughter-in-law Stacy came along and was part of Scott Wooge’s balloon crew as we prepared to fly over Lake Vermillion and on to the Vermilion County Regional Airport where the weekends Balloons Over Vermilion County will take place.
The crowd first gathered at Carlton Farms where pilots received a briefing and media going on flights were paired with their pilots. After petting the beautiful senior Golden Retriever Elwood and the pup Jake, Stacy and I gathered around to find out that I had been assigned a ride with experienced pilot Scott Wooge. Scott has just returned from a balloon competition that this daughter had been part of in Lithuania.
Scott, the at Large Director of the Balloon Federation of America has been flying since 1990. He is part of a balloon flying family. Scott and his wife Cynthia own LTA Services of St. Louis Missouri and they along with their daughters and son in laws Kimberly and Adam Magee and Rebecca and Erik Belford fly through the air with the greatest of ease. When he is not flying, he is fixing and repairing hot air balloons or traveling! On Thursday, July 14th, I was blessed to be part of one of his flights!
Once the designated take-off site was secured, we went to work. Stacy and I had the chance to be part of the five person crew preparing for takeoff. It is amazing to me that the huge balloon fits into a large pouch the size of the balloon basket. Once the balloon was unrolled and filled with air and attached to the basket, I climbed in and three of us were sky bound!
When lifting off into the air I couldn’t help but think of Jules Vernes Around the World in 80 Days and the balloon escape. We escaped to the sky with other balloons lofting upward and out.
Amazingly the hiss of the gas lifting us was the only sound. Once in the air, everything was still and crystal clear. It felt as if I was sitting in this basket watching the world go by rather than feeling as if we were moving at an average speed of seven miles an hour. Other balloons lifted off and the beauty of them lifting into the early evening air was breath taking.
The next thing that happened was truly astounding. We lightly landed and skimmed Lake Vermilion much to the delight of boaters on the lake watching and waiting for talented pilots like Scott to touch down on the water. As we lifted off, the sun was reflecting, the boats were floating and all was at peace with the world.
Next we headed for the airport, flying over fields and trees. It became crystal clear that balloons while being a wonderful recreational sport can also be used for a myriad of things like crop scouting and more. Farmers can spot those drowned out places and see the condition of their crops in one glance. I felt like a crop drone as we went over corn and soybean fields. Being a farmer’s wife, my thoughts turned to agricultural endeavors when we spotted inroads into fields and more.
As we skimmed over stores, people waved outside their cars, other balloonists floated across the sky and the beauty was as lovely as any Van Gogh painting I’ve seen, only this time, the beauty was real, not just viewed through the painters eye. I only wish my pictures could reflect how lovely, peaceful and perfect the flight really was.
We landed at the airport; the crew including Stacy was there to greet us. We helped mash the balloon back down into packable form, loaded up and headed out. While we left and drove back home, I reflected on how life changing a ride can be when you see it all from above.
If you get the chance, head over to the Vermilion County countryside as Balloons Over Vermilion takes flight. While they are not offering rides, visitors will have several opportunities to witness up close and personal, these eye catching spectacles as the event unfolds all across Vermilion County.
Balloons Over Vermilion will feature thirty hot air balloons launching and tethering, as well as mass ascents, fly ins and balloon glows at the Vermilion County Regional Airport. Log onto http://balloonsoververmilion.com/ for details about this amazing event