Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Up, Up & Away

I got to thinking the other day that I hadn't talked about the NW Art & Air Fest that Albany has held every August for the last 24 years.

It is the last fun summer thing I do before heading back to work.

I love this fest! So many beautiful balloons, nice people, fun activities and many photo opportunities. I have been interested in hot air balloons since we lived in Bothell, WA and saw some balloons flying in a nearby town. We chased those balloons and we were able to watch them deflate and pack up the balloon.

When we moved here in 1993 I was thrilled to see balloons flying over the house one morning. I made sure to get up real early the next morning and watched the balloons fill up with air from a fan and then the pilot ignite his burner to heat that air up, causing the envelope to rise up. Watching in amazement as they would load people into the baskets and with the push of a lever more heat would come from the burner allowing for the balloon to lift off the ground. Gently, quietly, lifting with grace the balloons would catch the slight wind currents and take off in unknown directions.

August 2001 Top of the CheckMate balloon

The next year I made sure to mark the 3 day weekend that the balloon fest would be happening. I got the kids up early and we went to the nearby high school were they were doing the liftoffs. We were thrilled when we got to help a pilot or two with their balloons. This same year we even chased the balloons and watched them land. How exciting!!

Somewhere along the line we signed up to be one the "crew", a group of volunteers who are assigned to help a pilot with his/her balloon for the weekend (or as much as you can). Both the kids were excited to do this.
As the years went on we continued to help, somewhere along the line, wonderful son dropped out of the scene and it ended up being just my daughter and I. Great bonding time, getting up at 4 or 4:30 to be on the field by 5:15 to 5:30 am. She is NOT a morning person. LOL

N and I at West A helping out! - 2003

Some pilots will even try and give a crew member a ride on the last day if they don't have passengers. I have been up 3 times, T has been up 4 or 5 times I think and N- 4 to 6 times.

But my best time going up was when N & I were able to go up together in 2006. I took my camera (duh!) and was able to take some great shots.
N & Mar holding done the basket before lift off - '06

A view from the balloon as we lift off

A beautiful shot of the pilot's brother's balloon

N looking out at the landscape

N & Mar enjoying time together
In the last couple of years my son has been helping out with the balloon fest - he and his housemate have been doing launch detail. This means that they tell the pilots when they have the clearance to lift off.

This summer marked my 12th or 13th year helping out. I ended up helping 2 pilots this year. The first one was Kevin from Louisiana and Eugene. Really nice guy, pretty balloon. He made it to Freeway Lakes where I was able to take a few shots of him over the calm lake. The day was overcast and the lighting was blah, but I did get a few good shots in. On Sat & Sun I was assigned to help Mick Vale and his wife. What a nice newlywed couple, they are a bit older than me. They askd me to help again next year, maybe. I was also asked by Kevin to help him next year and then there was Scott S. from 2 years ago, he asked for me too. WOW.
'08 - Over Freeway Lake

Count how many there are

One of my favs this year

My other fav!
I got a text from my son that Sunday of the fest. He was able to get a ride. Carrie was his pilot and he got to ride in her balloon "Ha Kunna Matta". Here she is pinning her balloon pin on son. He's even smiling!! He's so handsome, isn't he?

Hope you enjoyed the photos!!

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