How to chase balloons

23 Sep

It’s balloon time in the Queensbury-Glens Falls region! While you may not be overly excited for the annual Adirondack Balloon Festival taking place near the Warren County Airport this weekend, here is a video and a recycled column on why and how you should get out and watch. (Bring your pet, too!)

For a schedule of events for this weekend’s balloon festival, check The Post-Star and it’s balloon-specific section.

Sportswriter Alex Matthews took her “Anything Active” column to the 38th annual Adirondack Balloon Festival, where she found out what it’s like to chase balloons.

***

Post-Star commentary by Alex Matthews | Posted: Monday, September 27, 2010; poststar.com

As I rolled into the Glens Falls YMCA parking lot in complete darkness at 6 a.m. Sunday, I wondered what I was doing.

I had committed to hot-air balloon chasing – something not entirely “active” but interesting nonetheless – and my mom agreed to meet me before the Adirondack Balloon Festival’s 6:30 a.m. launch time.

Still, it was painfully early for a night-shift sportswriter, and I have no real fascination with balloons. Riding in one seemed almost less appealing than following in my own car.

So why did I do it? The balloon festival comes once a year, and we’re lucky to have it. Besides filling the sky with beautiful hues and bubbly shapes, the balloons are weekend-fillers that create activities.

Chasing one by way of rural roads is one of them. So I filled the gas tank, grabbed my car-loving puppy and left the maps at home for a new experience.

In reality, balloon chasing isn’t high speed and a few gallons of gas on a calm day should be sufficient. My mom and I traveled about 10 miles round trip from the Warren County Airport. Each balloon is typically airborne for about an hour.

The landing site on County Road 36 in Kingsbury was actually a little farther from the airport than others ended up. After chatting with our balloon’s crew members, the local Blacksheep Squadron, we discovered they launched independently from Route 4.

Balloon-chasing lesson No. 1: Pick an unmistakably recognizable balloon. I’d go with a cupcake or a fruit shape rather than a certain color. And don’t detour for coffee.

The day was a success regardless, and we were glad to have found a balloon with local ties and a smiling landowner to greet them.

For those thinking of balloon-chasing next year, here’s an outline of how the morning might go:

6:40 a.m.: Watch some 80 balloons launch from the airport in Queensbury. We chose an outside spot on a hill off County Line Road for a quick exit.

7 a.m.: Coffee stop. Skip it. You’ll get distracted and lose track of your balloon.

7:15-7:30 a.m.: A very slow drive to your destination. We stopped once to see if the balloon was moving.

7:45 a.m.: The landing. Run into the field if you want, but stay out of the way. The crew usually helps move the hovering balloon closer to the road.

8-8:30 a.m.: Talk to the balloonists and their crew members. Feel free to offer a hand in deflating the balloon and packing it up.

***

Active Advice: Ways to actively chase balloons

— Follow on a bicycle: We drove, but the total mileage was only about 10 miles, and some balloons landed closer to the Warren County Airport launch site.

— Wear jeans or long pants and sneakers: If you’re planning on running through a field to meet the balloon.

— Ask the crew if they want help: They’re usually happy to have extra hands deflating the balloon and keeping it off the wet ground.

— Don’t expect champagne: First of all, it’s 8 a.m., and you weren’t really that involved. Bring a bottle of water instead.

— Inquire about riding in a real chase vehicle: Many balloon festivals seek local volunteers as guides to ride with crew members. Visit www.adirondackballoonfest.org to contact organizers.

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