By Bill Stansbeary
The Denver sky is treated occasionally to the beautiful sight of colorful hot air balloons slowly drifting with the wind. That was the case Aug. 24-26. The 2007 Rocky Mountain Balloon Festival, held at Chatfield State Park, attracted a crowd of 50,000.
Everyone loves balloons, especially when they’re in special shapes and colors, such as the giant “Energizer Bunny Hot Hare,” “Smokey the Bear,” “Ham-let the Flying Pig,” “Tony the Tiger” or “Reach for the Stars.” The average balloon ranges in size from 65,000 to 105,000 cubic feet in volume and stands around 8 to 10 stories tall.
Since the air mass directly above the earth is most stable within the first hour or two after sunrise, that’s the time of day balloonists fly. Getting up in the dark early morning hours is part of the requirements if you want to go up in a hot air balloon. It also helps to volunteer to be part of the chase crew to help inflate and then follow the route of the balloon during flight. When it lands, the crew then helps pack it up and celebrate another wonderful flight.
Ballooning is one sport that is fit for the entire family. Gery deKoevend, one of the most experienced hot air balloon pilots in the area, has been including his children since before they could walk. Pilots’ children are a common sight at all events and at regular weekend flights. As they get older, they often become important members of the chase crew, or decide to become balloon pilots themselves. Russ and Shirley McLain have a large family of balloon enthusiasts long associated with RE/MAX, the event presenter.
Special exhibits included a NASA exhibit showing different aspects of the space program, in a new interactive trailer called “Vision for Space Exploration.” Lockheed Martin presented their Orion program, designed to provide safe and reliable human transport to the International Space Station, the moon, Mars and beyond.