Though flight is elusive, balloons take shape at Duluth’s Bayfront Festival ParkHere’s the first thing you need to know about ballooning: “I’d rather be on the ground wishing I was in the air than in the air wishing I was on the ground,” said Mark “Sparky” Orvik, 58, of New Prague, Minn.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
Here’s the first thing you need to know about ballooning:
“I’d rather be on the ground wishing I was in the air than in the air wishing I was on the ground,” said Mark “Sparky” Orvik, 58, of New Prague, Minn.
Orvik is not a pilot; he’s on the crew for Ed Chapman, the “balloonmeister” of Le Festival des Montgolfières, the balloon festival that concludes its three-day run at Duluth’s Bayfront Festival Park today.
But the above adage is known to all of those involved in hot-air ballooning, said Orvik, who has been among their ranks for 40 years. It explains why, although Saturday’s clouds cleared out early and left a sparkling, blue-sky September day with light breezes, balloons still weren’t ascending over Duluth’s hills.
“Most days you know if it’s going to be good,” said Al Johnson of Shakopee, Minn., who pilots the Snowflake. Even in southern Minnesota, that only happens about 25 to 50 times a year, he said.
Duluth is a different, and more problematic, ballgame.
“Just because of the water and the trees,” said Brett Tupy of Lakeville, Minn., who pilots the Kaleidoscope. “And the towers. There’s a number of obstacles.”
The balloons require wind speeds of less than 10 mph to be inflated. “Otherwise, they go like this,” Orvik said, waving his arm from side to side. That means the best windows of opportunity are during the first two hours after sunrise and the last two hours before sunset, when calm weather is most likely.
For the balloons to actually fly, a light wind from the east to southeast was needed, said Johnson, who was celebrating his 32nd wedding anniversary on Saturday. That would send the balloons in the general direction of Esko.
“There are plenty of fields there,” he said.
Still, progress was made on Saturday. Whereas on Friday evening none of the balloons could be inflated, on Saturday morning, five showed their colors.
In the waning daylight hours of Saturday, a large crowd watched as one balloon after another “stood up,” to use ballooning lingo.
First the 120,000-cubic foot Sunny Daze, piloted by Mark Spanier of Webster, Minn., filled with air. Spanier’s crew struggled with the fickle breeze, and at one point the balloon briefly leaned over onto spectators, several of whom ran out from under the fabric.
Across the festival grounds, the Kaleidoscope followed suit.
The balloons were, in the word of Otis Jordan of St. Paul, “ginormous.”
They are really big. Chapman said a 120,000-cubic-foot balloon is the equivalent of three two-story houses set on top of each other.
Jordan, 39, came for the weekend with his fiancée, daughter and nephew to relax and enjoy the balloons, he said.
“I was a little disappointed at first because they said they might not get them up,” Jordan said. “Now that they’ve got a couple of them up I’m feeling a little better.”
A group of five College of St. Scholastica students were taking pictures of themselves with the Kaleidoscope as a backdrop.
April Hieb, 22, a fifth-year double major from Andover, Minn., organized the expedition. They arrived at the festival grounds about 4:30 p.m., having heard the balloons would be inflated after 5.
“I think this is awesome,” Hieb said.
Several from the balloonist ranks said the weather forecast looked favorable for something even more awesome to happen today.
“There’s a much better chance the balloons are going to go” this morning, Orvik said.