The 2015 Hot Air Jubilee
The Experience in FullThe 2015 Hot Air Jubilee Media Event in Jackson Michigan
It's that time again!! A time of wonder! A time of color! A time of loud bursts of heat and flame blasting into an envelope (aka balloon). It's a distinct sound that turns heads as it sails over their yards. People are waving from this tiny basket that is fastened to the bottom of it. It moves slowly and is visible to everyone on the ground. It travels on a breeze and is controlled by vents and propane. The Hot Air Jubilee is back with new and exciting games and balloons. Because this is about the upcoming event, and my recent experience, this update may be a bit long. I hope you like to read, and can sense the excitement and emotions I felt.
On Thursday, July 9, 2015, the Hot Air Jubilee hosted a cookout and created opportunities to unite the local media with the pilots, as well as allow productive interviews of the pilots and officials. I was representing Jacksonopolis tonight. After arriving, I checked in and signed a waiver in case an opportunity to fly were to become available. As I learned that night, one member of each of the medias, present, would be matched up with a participating pilot to get the opportunity of a lifetime: A balloon flight. I was not the only representative of Jacksonopolis that evening, so my chances were based on how many pilots actually participated for the event. If there were more pilots than media reps, others would be allowed to fly as well.
As it turned out, I was paired up with a pilot at the last minute. The pilot that I was introduced to was Tyler Jaques. He pilots the Post Cereals balloon. A yellow, white and dark red envelope with a huge POST logo in the middle. The other Post Cereals balloon in the event is the one shaped like Sugar Bear. That balloon is piloted by Tyler's dad, David Jaques. Tyler is a young man with lots of experience and a great family bond to the ballooning community. Upon first impression, I knew I would trust him with this trip into the sky. I asked him how long he had been a pilot. His answer was, "Three weeks." I must say that that answer took me off-guard, and he let that sink in before changing his answer to the correct one: 13 years, although he'd been in training with his dad long before actually pursuing a pilot license. Any emotions of fear were erased.
Once the balloon was filled, heated, and standing up, I had to sling the cameras over one shoulder and maneuver my way into the basket. I heard someone behind me say that there isn't a graceful way of getting in and boy! was she right. If it hadn't been for people pushing my feet over, I would have toppled into the basket rather than climbed in. Once in though, I asked where I should stand, and stayed in that spot. Tyler kept telling his mom to get into the basket as she adamantly refused. She had told me that she had only been in a balloon three times despite her husband and son being pilots. As it turned out, Mo Piper (The Hot Air Jubilee Balloonmeister) walked by. It didn't take too much coercion to get her to climb into the balloon for the flight. Within a few minutes, the balloon crew would taxi us out of the way of the other still-inflating balloons, and we would be on our way.
It's a little daunting to begin the ascent, but I would remind myself to trust the pilot and know that my friend was there too. I started looking around and waving to people on the ground, occasionally shouting to them. As we reached a height that should have made me feel very uncomfortable, the breeze started to carry us in a southeast direction. It was a slow drift, and one that I took in immensely. Rivers that cut their way through the trees and semi-hidden roadways were revealed in patterns that became stunning works of art. Watching the little people on the ground was intriguing, and the distant clouds that were finally leaving the Jackson area appeared as breath-taking mountains. A familiar boat storage facility appeared ahead with a small lake right behind it. Sharp Lake to be exact. But Sharp Lake began to appear larger as we got closer. It also became closer as I noticed we were descending.
We were drifting over a swamp of cattails, where the water could be seen at their base. A small wooden dock was in their midst, and despite how I felt about being that close to the ground as the bottom of the basket grazed the tops of the cattails, we descended lower. A nearby fisherman, in a kayak, paddled away from the direction were were floating and the stopped and watched as our basket touched the top of the water. I lifted my feet and watched, in awe, as Tyler Jaques sailed that balloon gently over the lake, skimming the basket on the surface of the water, leaving a small wake for about 10 to 12 feet in distance. The basket never went more than three inches into the water, when there was a sudden burst from the burners, and we began to ascend again. The part of the lake we had just skimmed was lined with trees, and it took long bursts to clear them. Mo was able to grab a handful of leaves from the top of the trees as we exited the lake area. Looking back, I watched other balloon pilots going for the splash and dash with their baskets. What a site it was!
The sun was in its full brilliance! There were about a half dozen balloons behind us as well as a couple in front of us, and a few more over us. The light coming through the sides of the balloons illuminated them to their fullest potential of color. And the lake, now becoming an item of the past, mirrored everything around us, like an alternate universe, on the flip side of the land below. The scene really showed a monumental experience and the result was completely artful, even poetic. What a great night spent with the community, our friends, and now, our new friends.
I'd like to thank Jacksonopolis, Travis Stevens, Mo Dedrick, and the 2015 Hot Air Jubilee of Jackson Michigan for the opportunity to enjoy this great experience. I would also like to extend a special thank you to Tyler Jaques and his awesome balloon crew and family for participating in the event and making sure I didn't die (or drown), all-the-while making this experience one that I will remember forever. Thank you.
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Sounds like an awesome adventure
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