September 19, 2009: We Attend Octoberfest in Addison
September 8, 2009: A Visit to the Dallas Arboretum With Guy
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September 18, 2009
We Visit Balloon Fest in Plano


On Friday, September 18th, Ron and Jay invited us to join them at the Plano Balloon Festival that is held each year about this time. This year will be the 30th anniversary of the festival. Ron and Jay have attended before, but this is the first time that Fred and I have joined them.

On Friday afternoon, Fred and I drove up to Ron and Jay's house in Plano, and Ron drove to the Festival.

You've undoubtedly seen maps to Ron and Jay's house before; many of our birthday and holiday celebrations are held there. Ron and Jay are excellent hosts, and we are always appreciative of all the effort they go to. Fred and I just drive up Central Expressway to Parker Road in Plano, then go west to Roundrock, north to Ron's street and down a block to their house.

When we got there, Jay already had all the stuff ready to go- lawn chairs, cold water, snacks and so on, and we helped them load it all into Ron's SUV and then off we went. To get to the Balloon Festival, which is in east Plano, we headed north to Spring Creek Parkway, back east and under Central Expressway to Jupiter Road. Then we turned south to the parking areas around Collin County Community College, parked, gathered up the stuff, and walked over to the Festival entrance. We paid our admission and then walked down the hill to the grassy viewing area. We set up our chairs and waited for it to get darker; the balloons are usually brought out about dusk. I engaged the services of one of the other attendees to take a picture of the four of us waiting for the balloons to appear.

I took a movie of us waiting in our lawn chairs, and you can watch that movie using the player below:

Here are Fred, Jay and Ron waiting for the balloons to appear at the Plano Balloon Festival.

This evening, it was windy and the weather was a bit threatening, and it seemed as if there was some doubt as to whether the balloons would actually be able to fly. We were inexperienced at the Festival; as it turned out, on Friday evening of the Festival weekend, the balloons are not actually launched. The "show" is all about the set-up. The balloon owners and sponsors (most of the balloons had corporate sponsorship) bring them out to the launch field, set them up, inflate them and then perhaps ascend only a short distance while tethered. The actual launch and flights occurs during the daytime on Saturday and Sunday.

But the "show" for the attendees is the same regardless; once the balloons are launched, they of course float away from the launch field, and everyone in Plano and the surrounding area can watch them as they float across the sky to their various landing sites. We had an excellent perch, right in front of the the launch area. While we were waiting for the event to begin, we got up and walked around the vendor area. It had the usual selection of balloon-related booths, local businesses, banks, an arcade, various craft booths and places to eat.

Here is my movie of the launch area prior to the arrival of any of the balloons.

In any event, the wind died down at dusk, the weather cleared and the various balloon teams brought their balloons out to the launch field. Each team arrived in its own truck/trailer affair; the large pickup trucks tow specialized trailers that look like large versions of U-haul trailers. These trailers contain the balloons, baskets, burners and other equipment. Each team had already had its position on the field marked, and when most of the teams had arrived there were a couple of rows of balloons- perhaps fifteen or twenty of them in all.

The first balloon to arrive and begin setting up was an especially colorful one apparently sponsored by the EDS Credit Union. It set up at the end of the launch area nearest to the vendor area, to our left as we faced the field. Below are some thumbnails for some of the pictures Fred and I took of this ballon in various stages of its inflation and set up. They will give you a good idea of what the process for each balloon was like. The thumbnails are in time sequence from left to right; click on them to view the full-size images:

I made three movies of the inflation process for this balloon, each time assuming I would catch the balloon at the time it stood upright. I severely underestimated the time it would take for the inflation, and my first two movies were boring affairs; all you could watch was the burner blowing hot air into a balloon lying on the ground. Mercifully, I have delete both of those movies. But you can watch the last one with the player below:

Here is my movie of EDS Credit Union balloon finally achieving liftoff.

It seemed at first that the EDS balloon might be the only one to be set up. We started to think that the weather was threatening enough that the balloons weren't going to make their appearance, but that the organizers had decided that at least one balloon had to get set up to mollify the crowd. But, as it turned out, the other balloon teams were just waiting their turn to come onto the field. I made a movie as more of them were arriving, and you can watch that movie using the player below:

Once the EDS balloon was up and stable, lots of other teams began arriving.

There was one balloon right in front of us that, along with just a couple of others, didn't fit the image most people have when they think of ballooning: this one was, apparently, a duck. The crew seemed to have a bit of difficulty getting it filled with air, but finally they did, and the sequence of pictures that you can see by clicking on the thumbnails at the left capture the moments when the balloon lifts off the ground and straightens up.

A bit later, I made another movie of the launch area; watch it with the player below:

Along with the EDS balloon and the duck right in front of us, maybe fifteen other balloon teams arrived in short order and began setting up and inflating their various balloons. The process went quickly for some, not so much for others, but every one was interesting. We were able to walk up and down the fence line to watch the process. In this movie, you can see that quite a few balloons are already inflated, and you can watch a burner being used to inflate another of them.

As the balloons were being inflated, we could see that way down at the end of the line to our right there was a balloon with a buffalo head on it. Fred took some pictures of it from where he was, I walked down close to it and took some others. I have put thumbnails for the best of both of our pictures over at the right. You can click on these thumbnails to see the full-size images.

From my vantage point down by the buffalo balloon, I made another movie looking back down the line of balloons towards where the other guys were still sitting. You can watch that movie using the player at left.

As the light waned and it got darker, Fred and I were snapping quite a few pictures of all the different balloons, and many of these pictures are quite interesting. I have put thumbnails for eight of the best of these below. Click on as many of the thumbnail images as you wish to get a good appreciation for the beauty of the balloons that we saw in the launch area:

Once it got dark, the balloonists could show off their burners to the crowd. Of course, they'd used them to inflate their balloons, but some of them had extra burners and/or baskets, and these they moved close to the grassy slope where most of the attendees were sitting. Then, either on their own or on cue from the PA system, they'd light them up. I took quite a few little movies of this part of the festival, and you can watch them using the players below:

Showing off the burners to the crowd.
Showing off the burners to the crowd.

Showing off the burners to the crowd. Close to the end of this evening's festival activities.

As the evening wound down, Fred and I took a number of additional pictures in the dark. Not many of these turned out well, but I've put thumbnails for those that did below. You can click on these thumbnails to view the full-size images:

We had a great time at the Plano Balloon Festival; one of these days we'll return on the Saturday or Sunday and watch the balloons actually launch and fly away. Ron and Jay have done that, although they do tell us that it is a real zoo on those days if the weather is nice, and that's why they wanted to come this evening.

You can use the links below to go to another album page.

September 19, 2009: We Attend Octoberfest in Addison
September 8, 2009: A Visit to the Dallas Arboretum With Guy
Return to Index for 2009