a crowd of 200 gathered around the balloon pilots' briefing,
they heard the words that they already knew. The winds were too
strong for a flight. It was hoped, however, that there would still be
the possibility of a balloon glow at dusk.
The early crowd could be considered light for a Friday evening,
although not what one would call a poor attendance. Numbers were
down early, as the Friday night launch is primarily witnessed by
Logan County residents, with most travelers to our city still on the
way. Area residents have become balloon experts themselves, knowing
without coming that the winds were too strong.
As the evening progressed, the crowd grew. From Airport Road all
the way to the Heritage In Flight Museum, there were things to ride
on, foods to eat, vendor tents to shop in, as well as an
atmosphere of a community celebrating its uniqueness and storied
Throughout the night, friends met friends, stopped and chatted on
the midway, and moved on to greet still more friends and neighbors.
There were no balloons in the skies, but there were thousands of
smiles on the ground. It was an uplifting experience to see.
The organization at the airport to handle a crowd was remarkable
to witness. From double-gated entry lines with plenty of help to
check passes or collect money, to scores of volunteers showing a
motorist which way to go, not a moment was lost in confusion. The
entire event showed exceptional planning for every detail. Mini taxi
carts stood waiting if passengers found the trek to the main
area too far to walk.
The festival was laid out in a straight line, with the amusement
park -- a favorite of our community for people with little legs --
closest to the parking. Food vendors all in a row came next and then
the merchandise vendors all in a row after that. On the other side
of the midway, organizations with special product promotions or
messages were all together.
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The balloons and balloonists themselves are family-friendly. Up until
the point of preparing to launch, families are encouraged to get up
close and meet the balloonists and watch as the great air-defying
machines are unfurled. Not until after the balloons begin to be
filled with air are people asked to stay behind a designated area,
but still close enough to truly appreciate the majesty and size of
these flying machines.
As the huge Dodge Ram balloon filled with gas to offer at least
one balloon glow for the evening, a youngster, perhaps 3 years
old, toppled over after raising his head back trying to see the top
of the great balloon. That is what one can objectively call close
and super large.
As the evening darkened, an unusual sunset appeared in the west.
It was so unusual that many of the hundreds of cameras at the
festival trained their lenses on that sight. It was almost as if
nature was trying hard to do us one better. It will be
left to those attending that evening if she did or not.
As the dark settled in, the cars continuously came. No threat of
rain and so many other things to see and eat and play on brought
strong numbers after nightfall. Still, the line of cars waiting to
enter the airport was small and short-lived. The 100-plus volunteers
and dozens of coordinators on duty were making everything just right
on an imperfectly perfect evening.
[By MIKE FAK]