Shelbyville Daily Union

October 14, 2013

Winds stop Friday balloon flights, but not excitement

CODY DELMENDO - For the Daily Union
CNHI

SHELBYVILLE, IL. — “Always remember, eagles may soar, but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines.”

That’s just one quote from a pilot from this year’s balloon event at Lake Shelbyville.

Shelby Electric Cooperative and several other sponsors teamed up to bring in the Touchstone Energy Hot Air balloon team to host the fourth annual balloon fest this Columbus Day weekend.

The balloon fest was consolidated with the Shelbyville Scarecrow Daze to provide entertainment and activities for families of Shelbyville and surrounding areas.

This year there were 11 total pilots who took flight in the skies around Shelbyville. There were eight pilots in 2012.

Events for the weekend included a Media Flight on Friday, sponsor flight at sunrise Saturday morning, balloon glow and cookout Saturday night, and the final sponsor flight Sunday morning at sunrise.

The balloons featured in the festival were also scheduled to do different competitions between the pilots.

The Media flight was set for Friday evening, but due to the wind, the balloons never took flight.

Event coordinator Kevin Bernson said that flights usually take place if winds are 10 mph or less, any more than that result in delayed take off or just cancelation.

“It’s not uncommon this happens. You almost would rather it be cloudy and rainy,” Bernson said.

Even though the weather ruined the main entertainment, families were still welcome to check out the baskets and talk to the pilots about their experiences flying their balloons.

Part-time farmer Mike Fahrendorf, from Ellisville, Mo., has more than 10 years of experience flying balloons and was more than willing to talk about his experiences.

Fahrendorf has been involved in ballooning since 1991 and has been a pilot since 1998. He said he mainly goes to events in Centralia, Lincoln, and obviously Shelbyville.

“I was interested in aviation when I was young and wanted to be a pilot,” Fahredorf said about how he became interested in ballooning.

“Skyhighballoon” is the name of his current balloon that he flies which he bought back in 2011. His first balloon was named “Softness of Spirit”.

Fahrendorf is part of the Balloon Club Bagi which is an association used to connect balloon pilots and crews together to improve the sport of hot air ballooning. The club originated out of Champaign-Urbana, Ill.

The owners of the balloons do not get paid to come to balloon events, but they do have incentives. All the pilots receive free hotel, free food at the events, and the transporting the balloon equipment to the event is paid for as well.

Pilots worldwide do this mainly as a hobby, but there are pilots who take ballooning much more seriously. Larry and Sheelagh Owen, winners of last year’s balloon fest competition, are evidence to that.

Sheelagh Owen said they have participated in the balloon event in Shelbyville five times, but it does not compare to the Albuquerque Fiesta.

The Albuquerque Fiesta is going into its 42nd year and is said to be the premier international ballooning event. Each year balloon teams worldwide participate in the event and attracts media coverage from more than 50 countries.

Owen said that they finished 18th out of around 700 balloons back in 2004 and it was one of the best experiences they have ever had.

“It’s so pretty. It’s just two hours of non-stop balloons,” Owen said.

It may not be Albuquerque, but due to the attendance shown at the events, the balloon pilots enjoy coming to Shelbyville every year.