Hot air balloons are spectacular. Just the mechanics involved to fill a balloon is an awesome site to behold. So, at least go to a hot air balloon festival and watch the wonderfully massive envelopes fill, rise and float off as far as you can see.
Be sure to watch for 'Bluner Bill & Cool Change' at one of these great festivals!
You might check my links page to find your way to these festival websites.
2008 Calendar of Events:
April 26th...CBA FunFly... Denton, NC 3 Spaces available during flight. Book it NOW! Multiple balloons in flight at the same time.
May 17th...CBA FunFly... Cleveland, NC 3 Spaces available for flight. Book it NOW! Multiple balloons in flight at the same time.
June 20th, 21st & 22nd...Chautauqua Festival... Wytheville VA 3 Spaces available for eachflight. Multiple balloons in flight at the same time. One of the most spectacular places in the conutry to fly. Mornings and evenings available. Book it NOW!
June 24th...Victory Junction Gang Camp... Randleman, NC
July 15th...Victory Junction Gang Camp... Randleman, NC
August 5th...Victory Junction Gang Camp... Randleman, NC
August 8th, 9th, & 10th...Big Brothers Big Sisters Big Feast & Hot Air Balloon Rally... Abingdon, VA This one is hard for me to resist. Ride space available. Book Now.
October 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th...Mountaineer Balloon Festival... Morgantown, WV Another I don't plan to miss!
2007 Calendar of Events Recapped:
June 5th...Victory Junction Gang Camp... Randleman, NC What a wonderful way to use my balloon. I tethered 43 beautiful children all with special needs and their councelors. My crew and the councelors did all the work for me and I just flew the balloon. The weather threatened but this thing was destined to come off without a hitch. It was the most important thing I've ever done.
July 9th...Victory Junction Gang Camp... Randleman, NC I'm hooked! You can take all the races, all the paid customers and all the balloon festivals and keep them; I'll just fly for these kids! If you'd like to know what I'm talking about, e-mail me, ask for the power point slide show I created after these tethers and I'll send it to you. You can see why I'm hooked.
August 10th, 11th, & 12th...Big Brothers Big Sisters Big Feast & Hot Air Balloon Rally... Abingdon, VA Had more fun than I deserved! A picture of my balloon was on the top dead center of the event poster this year. Got in every flight and flew some crew that hadn't been airborne since my Y2K Day Flight! Took my new "Aerostat Recovery Module" out for it's first outing. It served us well. Kathy's daddy, Russ Schott made the big show with us; Missed my Little Brother Jeremy, though. Tethered on Friday evening some of the reasons I go there, the children.
August 21st...Victory Junction Gang Camp... Randleman, NC It rained us out so we took my envelope inside the Mikey Waltrip Gymnasium and strung it up from the basketball goal, cold inflated it with a very large electric fan and laid wrestling mats inside it so that the children could walk (or roll their wheelchairs) inside and look around. Was a proud moment to just be in there and see so many beautiful faces.
October 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th...Mountaineer Balloon Festival... Morgantown, WV Didn't make it this year. Kathy got her finger amputated by an angry dog & we just couldn't see taking the chance by going. Maybe we'll make it next year.
2006 Calendar of Events Recapped:
April 31st...Denton Farm Park - CBA Fun Fly... Denton, NC T'was a fun little event. Did a flyout from the Denton Farm Park to test the countryside to see wheather or not it would be a feasable place for a festival in 2007 on Saturday evening. Flew my crew, John Sennate and employee of Jim Hendershot who owns and flies the Hot Apple Fly Balloon and another new crewperson, Deby Hodges who drove all the way from Newton to help. Oddly, the air was funky and going into the West but the landing zones were there enough to make a long flight if time allows and you choose. Nice place to have a good rally!
May 13th...Cottonstock Street Festival - CBA Fun Fly... Kannapolis, NC My Sponsor Flight was on Saturday morning and the (too windy) Night Glow was on the streets of Kannapolis that evening. Since my balloon is so big, I diodn't bother to snag a light pole with it for that but I carried a man and his son for my sponsors. They both worked for the D.H. Griffin Company that were there to implode the old Cannon Mills and clear the debris from the area. I asked in my pre-flight briefing had either flown in a hot air balloon before and the elderly gentleman said "I did when I was 11 years old." During that flight I asked him who he flew with and he told me he didn't know because he was in the croud and the pilot asked if anybody wanted to go so he volunteeded. He told me that a lady went with them and she parachuted back to the ground. They went on to land "REALLY HARD". I promised him a better landing than that. Noticing his advanced age I asked him where and what year that was. He told me in about 1937 in Mississippi. Deducing that he did NOT fly in a "modern day" Hot Air Balloon he must have flown in a "Smoky". It's now my mission to find out who it was he flew with. I have determined that it was NOT with any of the Allen's. Update later on the progress I've made on this.
June 10th...Dave Little Memorial... Cleveland, NC Just one flight to memorialize David Nixon Little, local balloonist, gentleman and friend. Wonderful gathering at the Page Farm East of Statesville to pay tribute to an excellent pilot and ambassador to our sport.
August 11th, 12th, & 13th...Big Brothers Big Sisters Big Feast & Hot Air Balloon Rally... Abingdon, VA Did a proposal flight while there. She said yes! Was the only balloon that made the airport; all others tried.
October 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th...Mountaineer Balloon Festival... Morgantown, WV Carried my sponsor on the Saturday evening flight and on the Sunday Morning flight I carried the Porter girls. All three! It was the best flight of the weekend. I had a dead bead on the hare balloon (Van) and looked down in the valley below and decided to blow off the race and fly for fun. I think I had more fun than any other balloonist out there. We made some locals happy that morning too.
November 18th...Montgolfier Day Celebration... Cleveland, NC CBA Fun Flight to celebrate the Montgolfier Brothers initial flight. Took Keith & Natalie Haley, two LTA rated pilots who've retired from the sport. I've carried them both separately now I've carried them both together.
2005 Calendar of Events Recapped:
June 4th, 5th & 6th...The National Balloon Rally... Statesville, NC T'was a fun weekend. Did the nite glow on Friday evening. Flew my sponsors on Saturday evening. Oddly the air was slow enough to make it a long flight to any good landing sites. I flew right over the courthouse in downtown Statesville and beyond I-40. This flight lasted 2 hours and 15 minutes and broke my personal best in distance and duration for this rally. Flew crew on Sunday morning and flew my wifey on Sunday evening and landed in my local crewpersons parents back yard. Nice way to cap off a good rally!
August 12th, 13th & 14th...Big Brothers Big Sisters Balloon Rally... Abingdon, VA On Friday evening we tethered kids, put smiles on most of their faces and scared the hell out of a couple "too little" ones! Then on Saturday morning after almost flying a box, figuring the weather for the rest of the weekend was gonna puke on us I elected to land where I could bag it up and keep it dry. Right on the driveway up to the new regional jail! I only carried Josh Nix one of my crew from Harrisburg, NC who carried my balloon to the event on his new 4x4 Diesel whilst his grandfather "Mr.Green Jeans" drove the chase truck. Spent some good time there and what a wonderful party after the nite glow on Friday night.
September 2nd, 3rd & 4th...Charleston Sternwheel Regatta Hot Air Balloon Rally... Charleston, WV With Hurricane Katrina having caused so much havoc and feeling the fuel crunch I was afraid that there might not be gas available to buy to get back home after I got there. So we elected to not arrive. This left them without a "Reigning Champion". Sorry folks, hopefully next year!
October 20th, 21st 22nd & 24th...Mountaineer Balloon Festival... Morgantown, WV On Thursday evening for a nite glow, it was windy! of nearly 40 balloons maybe 6 glowed. We were one who did. Then we put an extra coat of silicone spray on the balloon cover to keep it dry as the "real weather" set in and rained out the weekend. On Sunday morning we did the brunch thing and prepared for good enough weather to do an evening flight. You know me, they paid 1000 bucks for first, 500 for second and I got third! One place outa the money again!!! But it WAS a fun flight! :o)
2004 Calendar of Events Recapped:
June 4th, 5th & 6th...The National Balloon Rally... Statesville, NC Again another outstanding rally. Friends from the Kingsport, Tennessee area and my daughter and her family came, along with my grand daughters, and I carried my son-in-law on his first flight.
July 23th, 24th & 25th...Fun Fest... Kingsport, TN If only I were welcome to participate in this festival. I have family and so many friends in and around Kingsport and they all try to get me in and still I get turned down when Wayne finally contacts me. I can only suppose I'm too far down his waiting list to be welcome.
August 13th, 14th & 15th...Big Brothers Big Sisters Balloon Festival... Abingdon, VA Being down in the back pretty well, my neighbor and his grandsons carried my equipment to Abingdon and along with my local crew helped do it all for me. All I had to do was fly. Had a good weekend with my "little brother", Jeremy, my family and friends.
August 3rd & 4th, ...Charleston Sternwheel Regatta Hot Air Balloon Rally... Charleston, WV With Nathan spinning the hits and Robert "Disco Bob" Jones working the lights, still, Charleston is a great party. Had a wonderful flight with Duce from Magic Island to Corridor G; had to work for it! Had Mom & Dad stay over too, but they retired early.
October 1st,2nd & 3rd...Mountaineer Balloon Festival... Morgantown, WV Wonderful festival this year. We went anyway and spent time with my family and my friends. Only got 2 flights in but we were going for quality, not quanity.
October 15th, 16th & 17th...Shenandoah Valley Hot Air Balloon Fest... Winchester, VA WONDERFUL people, WONDERFUL place to fly, WONDERFUL festival. If I could have another festival like this one every year I could pay for my insurance! Met and flew some new people (some rather swiftly) and made some new friends. Welcome to my crew Vicky & Jeff!
2003 Calendar of Events Recapped:
May 3-4...Southside Sky-Fest... Danville, VA Good little event ... especially when the weather cooperates! I'd go back.
May 23-26...Pontiac's Freedom Weekend Aloft... Anderson, SC Due to a flooding situation here at home, I had to bow out of going at the last minute. Thank you for the refund of my entry fee. I love flying the Anderson area and hope to be invited back some day.
May 30-June 1...The National Balloon Rally... Statesville, NC Fun rally. I've seen some weird things up there. Where else can you find the lobby furniture out in the parking lot and a margarita machine powered by a chainsaw motor!
June 20-22...Chatauqua Festival... Wytheville, VA Got down in the back and spent the weekend at home in bed. I guess they pretty much weathered out anyway.
July 25-26...Fun Fest... Kingsport, TN After trying hard, fruitlessly, to get into this festival, the only way I could get in was to fly with Lee Weisz in his balloon. Maybe I'll try again in 2004. Maybe they will answer our many phone call messages.
August 8-9-10...Big Brothers Big Sisters Balloon Festival... Abingdon, VA Was a good party but the weather kept us out of the air again. Had a good weekend with my "little brother", Jeremy, my family and friends.
August 29-30-31...Charleston Sternwheel Regatta Hot Air Balloon Rally... Charleston, WV Was supposed to have a pretty good interview with the news channel, everything but my S-A-T scores, I'm told. Weathered out on the Saturday night flight. Still a great party.
October 2-3-4-5...Mountaineer Balloon Festival... Morgantown, WV Cancelled due to field reconstruction! We went anyway and spent the time with my family and my crew. It rained all weekend anyway. I drove by the field ... a mud hole.
October 17-18-19...Shenandoah Valley Hot Air Balloon Fest... Winchester, VA Ah! Finally the saving grace to my ballooning season. WONDERFUL people, place to fly, festival. If I could have another festival like this one I could pay for my insurance for the year!
2002 Events Recapped
May 4-5...Alamance Aloft... Burlington, NC Rained out for me and I went home. They should have named it "Alamance Afloat"!
May 24-27...Pontiac's Freedom Weekend Aloft... Anderson, SC Had a couple good flights here and got to really test my eazy pull conversion on my 8b FireFly. Landed and completely deflated in 17 seconds. I also met up with a man and his wife in a field where I landed; They crewed the rest of the weekend for me. In return I carried her on a flight and as we flew on she asked me "What can my office do for you to make this a better festival" I asked her what her office was and she told me she was No. 2 in the line of Anderson City management, I thought WOAH!!! Then I thought about it and said, "You know I'm happy, I'm having a wonderful time flying with the greatest pilots in the world and meeting some of the most wonderful people...but I can introduce you to someone who can answer your questions after the flight." That's when I introduced Nim & Linda McConnell to Jim Thunderbirk and asked him to see that she speaks to the right people here. He thanked me and I went on.
June 14-15-16...Chatauqua Festival... Wytheville, VA Glowed on Friday evening at the merchant's mall when the winds came. Bagged up just in time to be weathered out the rest of the weekend! Yuck!
August 9-10-11...Big Brothers Big Sisters Balloon Festival... Abingdon, VA Got off a tether on Friday evening and a couple good flights during the weekend. Got to be with my wife's side of the family and my Little Brother. A fun time was had by all!
August 30-31, Sept. 1-2...Charleston Sternwheel Regatta Hot Air Balloon Rally... Charleston, WV No Flight, weathered out! Another fine party!
September 20-21-22...The National Balloon Rally... Statesville, NC Scored 11th on one flight and saw something special too; a updraft of moisture into a cloud above me. This cloud of course moved in after I was in flight and looking for a place to land!
October 10-11-12-13...Mountaineer Balloon Festival... Morgantown, WV Weather was a bust but my family and friends made this one. We only got one flight off and it was a good one.
2001 Events Recapped
April 26...Iredell Aeronaut Society... Statesville, NC Kathy and I gave a slideshow and presentation on our time in Kenya. It was fun!
June 1-2-3...Hospice League Horizons Balloon Fest / Air Show... Burlington, NC As always, this is a great festival with good people and a worthwhile cause. Was good to see everyone.
June 8-9-10...Valley Fest IV... Roanoke, VA My first time here. WONDERFUL flying area. The people made it too! I just love Virginia!
July 3-4-5...BB&T Balloon Rally... Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, VA Kathy and I met some real nice folks here this year; a good time was had with our new friends. Some of the enjoyment seems to be missing here this year in this festival though. Wonder what was different???
August 10-11-12...Big Brothers Big Sisters Balloon Festival... Abingdon, VA Got to see my "Little Brother", Jeremy. Was a good time, just got rained on. Never even got it out of the bag so the party began.
August 31, July 1-2...Charleston Sternwheel Regatta Hot Air Balloon Rally... Charleston, WV As usual, I was the returning Champion! Always the good party; sorry we missed you Brian! We got winded out so we tethered on Magic Island. As tethers go, was a great one!
September 14-15-16...The National Balloon Rally... Statesville, NC After the World Trade Center bombing we were under a "NO FLY" by the FAA so we could only glow on Saturday and Sunday. I must say, it was the most wonderful and emotional night glow I ever had a part in. Most all of us donated our part of the prize money to the Red Cross which passed it on to the recovery fund in New York. We were proud to do it, just sorry it couldn't have been more.
October 18-19-20-21...Mountaineer Balloon Festival... Morgantown, WV Jeff Berryman moved on from his position with BOPARC last year; we'll miss him. This year we had a new "Britt" fellow with whom I was not impressed. I waited until December 20th to get my passenger fares paid from Mid October. Poor Management is the only excuse I can think of. We did have a new location, given the problems with 9-11. The launch site was moved from Hart Field, Morgantown Municipal Airport to a reclaimed strip mine site. The field could be made into a very suitable site with some work. Good place to get a sprained ankle left the way it is. Hopefully they'll fix this before next year.
2000 Calendar of Events:
I have been in Kenya, Africa flying the Masai Mara Wildlfe Game Reserve so I only made one event this year. I made it home in time to do the Mountaineer Balloon Festival the last weekend in October in Morgantown, WV.
1999 Schedule Revisited:
May 21-23...Gaston Lake Resort Balloon Classic... Gasburg, VA After being cancelled from a scheduled tether event I went here by request. I scored once (polished up for Anderson) and had a GREAT time. Tricky place to fly though; not for the inexperienced aeronaut.
May 28-31...Pontiac's Freedom Weekend Aloft... Anderson, SC Had the best time of my three visits to Freedom Weekend. I scored twice (once in the money) and the third time on Monday morning I forgot my bean-bag so the crew came up with this scheme whereby I should pass over the target, fly low and allow a crewperson to pitch a new bean-bag into my basket. Rocky threw a "Dead Center Drop" while I missed the target by 400 feet! Had I paid closer attention to details that morning as the Safety Officer preached, I think I would have scored extremely well. I got to carry Linda Hutton on a flight too. She was aboard a balloon that flew across the Great Wall of China. I think she liked our ride. She said that "nothing could top the "Great Wall Flight" but this was a close second!"
June 18-20...Chatauqua Festival... Wytheville, VA We showed, we glowed and we flew on Saturday morning. My flight was exceedingly legal! As usual the Wytheville area is a beautiful place to fly. Got to see a lot of good friends, fellow pilots and had to buy my own tee shirt!
I was to be up there again to do a tether for the library on July 15th with Bobby Jackson.
July 4-5...One Valley Balloon Rally... Lexington, VA After a silver wedding anniversary flight and another individual flight at home here on Saturday, we drove a couple hundred miles and arrived at this event. I was welcomed by several "BlunerBuds" (see "Bluner Terms") in an enjoyable manner. I flew twice, tethered and glowed on the 4th and flew out again on the 5th. The interesting thing about the AM flight on the 4th was, I flew a box. After flying nearly a half-hour I determined I could do it and said it aloud. One of my sponsors challenged me to do it and so I did just to prove I could! The terrain is nice to fly up there in that part of the Blue Ridge. I made friends with a local farmer & tethered his entire family after landing in his hayfield. I'm already committed to fly that one again next year. What a place to spend the 4th of July, Independence Day, at Virginia Military Institute, a very inspirational place. The Museum is very sobering, especially for me, the Viet Nam part.
I also found it interesting how they found a sponsor name that rhymed with the type of event!
July 23-25...Quick Chek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning... Readington, NJ What can I say about New Jersey! Let's see, It took till Sept. 9th to get paid from the festival people themselves for a show I did in mid July; and the tether I did for the two yahoos that were my sponsors, after multiple phonecalls to Anne Doyle, I finally got paid October 4th. I even had to pay part of the postage on my Pilot Pack!
Other than that, Kathy and I visited and put flowers on her mother's grave; We had a wonderful time with her family; We met some pretty wonderful people (even though they were Yankees!) and two others too who took all the fun out of being there (my sponsors). They needed rain up there worse than anywhere I've ever seen in my life; I made as much money as I could; Bill Whidden and his wife Trish didn't sell a single ride for me and they (the NJFB folks) drew as much interest on my money as possible before sending it to me.
All in all, the toll to get out of New Jersey was a bargain; they charge as I recall 35 cents. I'd have paid $10.00! Will I go back next year? Yes, if they'll have this Southern boy!
August 27-29...Charleston SternWheel Regatta Hot Air Balloon Rally... Charleston, WV Another year survived! I won the last race they had there... I landed safely this year; this alone makes me a winner again! Charleston is tight. If you aren't an experienced enough pilot to fly in tight, work your way to a landing zone possibly down town, then this rally isn't for you. It's a sphincter tightener! I did however have the most enjoyable time I ever had flying Charleston this year; the people and the party make it worth going. Thanks again to Birdie and the entire board for making it good for us.
August 13-14...Big Brothers Big Sisters Big Feast Fund Raiser... Abingdon, VA There seemed to be a political element that stiffled this little "Poorly Attended Balloon Rally" for the Big Brothers Big Sisters. There were 4 balloonists who showed to fly. These were Lee Weisz, William Harr and Marcel Fortin and myself. We had a ball! Only got one flight off (spectacular) and a tether that turned night glow. More money was made by the BBBS this year than last by $800.00. Sometimes you have more fun in a small group and we did have fun! The people who attended made it. Thanks to everyone for supporting the Big Brothers Big Sisters, after all isn't that what it's all about?
September 3-6...Gatineau Hot Air Balloon Festival... Gatineau (Quebec) Canada Now here's the most fun I've had all year! You have to hand it to a festival who puts a 6-pack of Molson in the pilot pack! 150 balloons, MANY shapes and what a show! The Americans won all 3 spots in the Can-AM race and I scored 4th with a throw of 2 feet 3 inches in the only other race they had. (One place out of the money but at least I'm getting consistent!) Several flights were weathered out due to lack of wind so the only thing left to do was do museums, the Parlaiment, sight see and have fun. We did! Kathy & I met some of the nicest people in the world, and yes Nathalie, I'm looking forward to going back next year. Plan on it! .....THANK YOU CANADA! WE LOVE YOU!
September 11-13...Jordan Fest... Chattanooga, TN I knew it was gonna be good when I arrived at the motel to see the event posters on the door with my balloon on them! Jerry Howell & Tom Roush always put on a fine, fun, friendly little festival. I scored 3rd in one race there too; should have won it but after seeing that target from 2'3" in Canada the week before I got greedy & wanted it closer than 65 feet out. I flew Russ Schott, Kathy's daddy, there for his first flight.
September 23-25...8th Annual Boshears Memorial Fly-In... Augusta, GA What can I say, it's the South! I had fun, met wonderful people, got to fly over a family of raccoons in their nest, bean bagged the hood of my burb winning a 6-pack from Mark Meyer and landed 4 feet from a gentleman's front door. I cleared his roof by 3 feet, his eave by 1 foot and the guy on the fire truck said somebody called that a balloon had landed on somebody's roof! You should have seen the guy's face when we knocked on his door; I just love ballooning!
October 7-10...Mountaineer Balloon Festival... Morgantown, WV Over the 14 years I've attended this festival I've accumulated this enormous crew. The Trickett family, the Porters, the Rineharts, the Smiths, the Hunters and my Mom, Dad and my daughter, Crissy. My crew is so big I can't take everyone to the hospitality parties so we have our own. This year was the BEST!
Margret Roberts, my sponsor, an 84 year young lady has flown with me twice and has been so generous to BOPARC, and me over the last 5 years. She has had the best of rides from me and now the most fun. She giggled all the way to a stop! Thank you Mrs. Roberts. And thanks to whomever it was that decided to put my balloon on the cover of the program this year; what a nice surprise.
October 15-17...Shenandoah Valley Hot Air Balloon Fest... Winchester, VA If I didn't live in this area of Virginia I would want to live in the Winchester area. It is just so pretty to fly the Shenandoah Valley. The people are wonderful, the land owners are especially nice to us and the terrain is way too much fun! Weather conditions made it possible to fly the Sunday morning flight until nearly 11:00. I landed in the refuling field, where I refuled and flew for another hour. What fun! Marsha and Kristie put on a fantastic festival. I love it up there; count me in for next year ladies.
1998 Schedule Recap:
Among those festivals visited were the Mountaineer Balloon Festival in Morgantown, WV, (my 13th time of it's 15 year existence); the Shenandoah Valley Balloon Festival, Winchester, VA; the New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, Sommerset, NJ; the National Balloon Rally at Statesville, NC; the Sternwheel Regatta Hot Air Balloon Rally (4 time returning Champion), Charleston, WV; Camp Jordan Hot Air Balloon Festival in Chattanooga, TN; the Ohio Valley Hot Air Balloon Festival in Louisville, KY; the Chautauqua Festival in Wytheville, VA and Freedom Weekend Aloft in Greenville, SC. Photos from these fine festivals are posted in my Photo Gallery. You may see them by clicking:
1997 Festival Highlights:
June...Hospice League Horizons Balloon Festival... Burlington, NC This is a great festival with good people and a worthwhile cause. Was good to meet everyone. Some fantastic photos of Cool Change taken by photographer Gene Galin can be seen in my photo gallery. Don't miss them!
June...The Chautauqua Festival... Wytheville, VA This is a great festival in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Every time I ever drove up I-77 I always wanted to fly here. I'm pleased to be accepted to fly in this event. What an honor!
June...Ohio Valley Great Hot Air Balloon Festival... Louisville, KY I missed winning the new Dodge Ram pickup by 6", flying in from 2-1/2 miles out. After flying on (to shake off the nerves), I landed in between two tall bridge ramps of an interstate. The Louisville Fire Department helped us recover the balloon. My crew chief extradordinare, Tom Gilmer and I got back and the party began! :o)
October...The Mountaineer Balloon Festival... Morgantown, WV What a great place to be at this time of year. It was t-shirt weather and the trees were peake for color. The crew did an outstanding job. We got some pretty wonderful pictures taken of Cool Change this year. Among them, Steve Bond caught me low over a lake, Charlene Porter got some great shots too. God, I love this festival! It's all about the people!