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August 26-27, 2000 - First Festival

Big Green in Plainville

[Click on thumbnails to see full size pictures]
This weekend we're taking part in the annual Plainville (CT) Fire Company Hot Air Balloon Festival. The weather is perfect and all three scheduled flights take place, with 36 balloons registered for the event (we count 30 in the air at once during one of the flights).

The descriptions of all three flights (Saturday morning, Saturday evening, Sunday morning) are on this page.

Saturday morning, Plainville 2000

We arrive on the field bright and early (5:20am with the launch scheduled for 6:00am) after a stop to pick up Claude at our usual meeting place. This morning my hope is to bring my wife, Carol, for a ride. The way I figure it, she has more crewing points earned than anyone else on my crew: every time I've gone out ballooning, either with "Big Green" or crewing for Santo, she ends up doing early morning and breakfast duty at home solo with the kids!

At left is a sequence of pictures taken by Lisa Huck, flying with Santo this morning, that show us before launch, and at various points during the flight.

Claude takes this picture, from a different angle, as we depart.

We are among the first third of the pack to launch, and we head mainly south, tracking Route 10, in the direction of Southington and Cheshire, after an initial period of going southeast.

At left is another sequence of pictures, this time taken from our basket.

Carol insists on taking a picture of her unshaven pilot!

We land after about 50 minutes in a parking lot behind a commercial building in Southington, touching down gently in a parking space after clearing the trees doing about 3kt, descending slowly behind them, and slowing to a crawl.

Carol really enjoys the ride and spends most of the flight (not to mention the rest of the weekend) grinning.

Claude drives up to the lot just after we touch down, and we deflate and pack up, waving hello to the few people who've come out to take a look. Refueling back at Norton Park doesn't begin until 3pm, so we head off to breakfast.
Saturday evening, Plainville CT, 2000

After refueling I pick a spot on the field for later in the afternoon, and wander around to the various booths and other attractions at the festival. Carol and the children arrive shortly afterward, and we watch the trees dance in the breeze for a while.

Two balloons inflate and tether, and the rest of the pilots watch and wait, hoping for the wind to die. When it looks like the breeze is beginning to subside, most of us lay out our balloons and, by a little after 6pm, everyone is beginning to inflate.

Various family members and regular crew help out with the setup and inflation of "Big Green" this afternoon. Getting all of the family involved is one of the best aspects of flying at a festival.

Here are two different views of the balloon. The first is the view from the vantage point of the crew member handling the crown line, while the other is a look up inside the just-inflated balloon.
After we get the balloon inflated, I surprise Andrew (my almost-9 year old) by inviting him to hop ("Cool!") into the basket.
We climb out of the field quickly to avoid the neighboring cold-inflated balloon, as well as another balloon that's tethering close by. Take a close look at the expression on Andrew's face in this picture: sheer delight, as he waves goodbye to his mother, brother and sisters! Andrew is impressed with the view, particularly with the view of the parking lot with the hundreds of cars arranged so neatly in rows.

The wind is taking us due east which I decide is not good since there are not many landing places available in what would be the first 45 minutes or so of our flight. My balloon is older and burns fuel faster than a new envelope, so I like to be making my landing approach after 45 minutes. I decide instead to cut the flight short and we land at Plainville High School after about 15 minutes. I'm not alone in this decision - we count 6 other balloons that land in the same field. Andrew is disappointed that his flight is so short, but understands the decision and what has driven it. Anyhow, when your Dad has a balloon, chances are you'll get to ride another day!

We wait for some time for our crew to reach us and walk the balloon to the small parking area where the balloons are taking turns to deflate two at a time. We are helped by Dave and Polly Lasher and their crew (Dave's balloon and mine landed almost simultaneously, with parallel tracks about 50 yards apart and they packed up before me). I send my family and crew off to the Plainville Firehouse, where there is a buffet dinner for the balloonists, and refuel back at Norton Park before joining them for dinner.

Sunday morning, Plainville CT, 2000

Everyone is delighted when it becomes clear that we'll actually get all three flights in, as Sunday dawns just as nice as Saturday. My sister Edel and her boyfriend Ger are visiting from Ireland, so they are out to crew this morning along with Eric; the plan is for Edel to come for a ride.
Edel takes this panoramic shot with her APS camera shortly after launch.
This morning, we track toward the north in light and variable winds. I take the picture at the left for sentimental reasons: on the day of my first flight last October, these were the three balloons in the air, from the left - Mike Kirkwood, Robert Zirpolo, and Santo Galatioto (with whom I was flying that day).
This is a nice picture, but you'd have to be there to get a true sense of how big a 140,000 cubic foot envelope is when you're this close to it! Robert descends after hopping over us.
We're all working the variable wind system to get toward a good landing spot. Low down, the direction is toward the north, but you can get a right turn by going higher. I climb a bit, and begin an approach to a suitable landing spot, and go on to land there about 10 minutes later. The airport in the picture is Robertson Field in Plainville, CT.

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