Jennifer Stringer wasn't able to get off the ground at the Cicero Balloon Splash on Saturday but she still had a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Here are a few of the things she discovered about the world of ballooning. When life gives you lemons . . .you meet some of the nicest people! I know that's not how the saying goes, but that's that the way I felt Saturday night after the Cicero Balloon Splash was canceled due to bad weather. Instead, the event organizers put together what is called a balloon twinkle.
A twinkle is when the teams put their baskets out and shoot their propane flames into the air. That in itself was pretty awesome to see â€“ and at first each flame made me jump from the sound and heat. During the twinkle, I also walked around and talked to the balloon pilots and their crews. This is what I learned that evening without ever leaving the ground:
1. It's hard to get into a balloon basket. I managed to climb aboard the High Expectations' team basket. Luckily, David Hoover was very patient as he explained how to swing my legs over and drop into the basket. It was harder than mounting a horse, especially with my bum knee but I made it in.
2. Ballooning is very family oriented. Here is the Aurora's Flame team from Columbus, Indiana. Rachel Gallant got her family involved after attending a program at Johnson Flight Academy and taking ballooning lessons. To support his daughter, Michael Gallant secured a balloon license and the whole family became a part of the team. Rachel is one flight away from earning her license. David Hoover met his wife at a ballooning event. And the Not Me Hot Air Balloon Team is made up of Keith and Michelle Shaffer and their 7 kids! The Cicero event included about 18 teams, including teams from Noblesville and Carmel, plus the High Expectations team, which has members from Little Rock, Arkansas, and Toledo, Ohio.
3. There are a number of balloon events competitions out there. The Cicero Balloon Splash was the first to feature a target in the water that balloonists would try to hit.
4. You need lots of training to become a balloon pilot. You have to attend ground school, learn about weather and federal regulations, and complete 10 flight hours. While you need a well-trained pilot, you also need a crew you can trust. The crew can be one person or several who help with takeoff and landing. The "crew" is often family, or becomes like family in this tight-knit community.
5. Balloonists have their own prayer. They recite it after they land: The winds have welcomed you with softness. The sun has blessed you with its warm rays. You have flown so high and so well That God has joined you in laughter And set you gently back again Into the loving arms of Mother Earth. I hope I will get to say that prayer some time soon. Until I get the chance to soar, the balloonists I met suggested I take a ride on the 1859 Balloon Voyage at Conner Prairie. It's a tethered balloon ride, but it will get me ready for greater heights!