Sunday, August 14, 2011

Balloon glow

August means it's State Fair time in Indiana, and this year, I got to see something that I've been wanting to for years: the evening glow of the hot air balloons.

The annual balloon race has been a tradition for many years, though it was just moved to Saturday morning (from Friday) a few years ago. For me, this is great news, because it actually gives me a chance to see it. The night before the race, the balloons gather in the infield of the fairgrounds. They inflate but don't leave the ground, and as the sunlight fades, the light of the propane burners turns the balloons into giant lanterns.

The field is clear of spectators while the balloons are being inflated, but we were able to watch from outside the fenced area and see part of the process.
Each balloon, as it was inflating, had one or two team members holding tight to a tether on the very top, keeping it straight and (for the most part) away from its neighbors.

It looked a bit like they were playing tug-o-war with Goliath.

The sight of the illuminated balloons is truly spectacular. You can help but smile in awe, whether you're six or 86.

The evening's emcee had the pilots do several coordinated "all glows," where they all lit up together (as you see below).
When all the balloons had successfully inflated, we were cleared to come closer and wander amongst them.
I was amazed by the intensity of the heat that emanates from the propane burners, and I didn't get any closer than about 15 feet away. I can imagine that the people in the actual basket stay pretty toasty on cool morning rides!
If I had a good opportunity to go for a ride in a hot air balloon, I'd take it. So far, the cost has been prohibitive for me (expect to shell out around $300 for a trip!), but maybe someday I'll suck it up and get a chance to do it.
Have you ever ridden in a balloon? Would you?

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