Bucket list item: Go on a hot air balloon ride.
For anyone who may not be aware, this weekend is the annual Saratoga Balloon and Craft Festival, held at the Saratoga Co. Fairgrounds. Rather than “launching” into the many, many crafters and vendors who are participating all weekend, I would just suggest you check out their website at http://balloonandbbq.com/, and their FB page, https://www.facebook.com/saratogaballoonandbbq/. I went Friday night for the Balloon Glow which was, unfortunately, postponed to Saturday due to rain so I didn’t really have a chance to check out the vendors, but what I did see was impressive.
However, with sincere thanks and overwhelming gratitude to the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau, I was back at the fairgrounds at 5:15 yesterday morning, practically dancing in excitement, because I had been given the opportunity to go up in one of the hot air balloons! A long-time bucket list item, for sure.
Was I scared to go up? Not one little bit. For real.
I spent the two weeks prior to yesterday’s adventure obsessively checking all the weather apps on my phone, hoping against hope that it would be a good morning for a balloon launch. And, although it was very cloudy out, there was no wind and no rain! Things got off to a late start as they waited to see what the weather was going to do but, in the end, all was well.
When it became time to head toward my assigned balloon and pilot, I discovered that, not only would I be taking off in the NEWEST balloon out there (only used NINE HOURS to date, having replaced one that was 20 years old), but my pilot was an incredibly vivacious and kind woman by the name of Kim Field, proprietor of Royalty Ballooning (https://www.facebook.com/Royalty-Ballooning-771641209546125/) , and my fellow passenger was a great guy named Frank who had been given his balloon ride as a 65th birthday present. We all hit it off immediately.
As they prepared our balloon for takeoff, which included unpacking, unrolling, and then inflating it, I stood nearby (didn’t want to miss one minute of the experience) and took in all the activity associated with the other balloons around us…some were taking off, and the others were at varying stages in their preparations for flight. Here is some of the activity that was going on around us:
Frank and I were given information and instruction as to how the balloon works, how to climb into the basket, what to do and not do while in flight, and were finally informed of the various types of landings we could expect.
We were ready to go. As it was so cloudy outside, we were not able to soar as high as on a clear day for safety reasons, but that didn’t matter. The excitement as we climbed into the air, followed by the peaceful beauty and views once we were airborne were beyond expectation. And, even though the clouds limited our views (particularly of the other balloons in the air) and kept us a little bit lower in the sky, the fact remains that the swirling mists were just SO COOL as we floated through them. A very dream-like, surreal and gorgeous experience.
Kim was an exceptional pilot. She kept her eyes open for safe landing spots and lucked out when we found a big grassy common area in Victory Circle. As mentioned, we had been informed of the various types of landings to expect and how to safely handle each one. Our landing was far and away the easiest of those options. She told us to bend our legs a little to absorb the impact but, when we touched down, there was only the slightest bump. Smooth and easy! She remained in constant contact with her road crew who met us there after we landed.
As soon as we touched down, kids and their parents began streaming out of the neighborhood houses. Kim asked Frank and I if we would mind hanging out for a while and, when we said we certainly would NOT mind, she proceeded to offer free tethered rides to all of the kids. She went up and down several times, delighting all the children, while constantly attracting more from their homes. To say she was a hit with that neighborhood would be an understatement. Her kindness and patience went a long way in helping even the most hesitant child climb into that basket.
Eventually, the fun had to come to an end. We helped pack up the balloon (well, I wasn’t much help as I was busy taking photos), and climbed into the road crew’s vehicle to head back to the fairgrounds.
Once we got back, Kim pulled out a bottle of strawberry Asti and gave a beautiful toast to celebrate a successful flight. (I actually had Asti before coffee! I deliberately dehydrated myself and hadn’t had my morning coffee prior to the balloon ride because I was worried about needing a bathroom while in the air!) It was a perfect ending to a perfect bucket list experience.
I have been to the Saratoga Balloon and Craft Festival every year for launches and balloon glows, and have always had a wonderful time. Whether you’re looking to take a hot air balloon ride, or just watch them launch (or even to see the beauty of the balloon glow at night), it’s a great family event. Again, many, many thanks to the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau (https://discoversaratoga.org/) for allowing me to go on this most amazing adventure.
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY TO ALL YOU DADS OUT THERE!