Two Sundays ago, I traveled with a friend to the Carolina Balloon Fest in Statesville, North Carolina, for a travel writing project. Even though it was for class, I had such a good time and it was one of the highlights of my semester so far.
We arrived early to walk around and talk to some of the pilots participating in the launch. We learned that the festival was not only for fun, but it was a competition amongst the pilots. It was so interesting seeing behind the scenes of this art of ballooning that is so unfamiliar to me.
There were a variety of balloons there, from all shapes and designs, but they were also from many different states like Florida and Virginia. There was a chance to walk into the inside of a balloon and also take tethered balloon rides, which had long lines. While it would have been amazing to book a real hot air balloon ride (something still on my bucket list), being a person in the crowd looking up was an experience like no other.
After walking around the field where there were performing bands, moon bounces, food and attractions for kids, we sat in the field relaxing and taking in the crowd of people. It was a long wait, since we were on a deadline, but in the end, it was worth it.
One thing that surprised me is that you could walk up to all the balloons as they were being set up. We got closer to see how they unfolded the balloon and blew it up. Seeing the first balloon inflate was such a thrill, and we thought it would take a while to see all of them inflate. But one after the other, balloons began to rise. And we were standing right under it all. (Taking lots of photos, of course!)
Standing below each balloon was pure bliss. We saw the pilot and people in the baskets wave down to their families and friends, as the balloons inched up, up and up. The skies were bright blue with no cloud in sight. The balloon colors just dotted the sky, floating in the sunshine and casting shadows back down on the ground.
We left shortly after they all arose, to catch the shuttle back to the parking area. But little did we know that the show continued: we saw all the hot air balloons travel over the trees down the road, and some landed on the ground.
The afternoon was such a healthy dose of sunshine, adventure and wonder. It just got me even more excited for the day I may lift off in a big, bright balloon.
Have you ever ridden in a hot air balloon?