The Nebraska Balloon and Wine festival was going on a few weeks ago so we decided to drive down and check it out. It was a bit late for the kids, so we didn’t purchase tickets because we didn’t know how long we’d be able to stay since it was an evening event, but we figured we could still see the balloons.
We were right. They launched several of the balloons a little ahead of schedule, so there were quite a few in the air as we drove down there. When we got there we found a nice, fairly empty parking lot and watched the rest of the balloons rise up past the houses that were blocking our view of the festival itself.
Charlie managed to capture a great picture on my phone. Considering she’s 7 and doesn’t have a lot of practice taking pictures, I was impressed with the composition of this one.
The balloons all floated right over our heads and they were low enough that we could see and hear the burners. The kids thought that was awesome. Luckily, ten years ago, my husband and I had the chance to ride in a hot air balloon for our honeymoon, so we learned quite a bit about the parts of the balloon and it was fun to tell the kids some of the things we learned.
We had a lot of fun watching the balloons disappear after they floated over us, and we figured that was enough for the night so we took off home again. However, our fun was just beginning!
There were still a few balloons in sight as we headed home, but one in particular caught our eye. I noticed it was starting to descend near a busy highway and told the kids we should head that way for a closer look since we could just swing around on the highway for an alternate route home. Everyone thought it was a great idea, especially the kids because they wanted a closer look.
They had no idea just how close of a look they’d get. I didn’t either. My plan was just to drive by, no stopping, but then I noticed the balloon was definitely landing in a field, so I made a quick decision to turn off the highway onto a less traveled road. We like to explore and I’d never been on this road, I figured, if anything we might find a really cool farm or something.
Instead, we came head on with the balloon that was landing. There was quite a bit of shoulder to the road, so we decided to pull over to get a closer look. We weren’t the only ones, several other families stopped to look too.
This is what we saw.
We were on the side of the road, the balloon had landed maybe 30 feet away from where we were and was already starting to deflate. As the balloon started to wilt toward the ground, the balloon crew had the basket and the guidelines and were leading it the best they could closer to the fence line.
It wasn’t long into this, when the balloon was pretty much laying down, that someone, who we later learned was the owner of the balloon, hollered at everyone watching and invited us up for a closer look.
The kids were beyond excited!
Now they could get a closer look at all those parts and functions we were talking about. I remember Charlie made a great observation by noting that all the air coming out of the hole was warm. She looked at us and gave us that knowing smile that said, awesome, you weren’t just making that whole hot air stuff up.
If you look at the picture you can see another family peering through the balloon at us from the hole on the basket side. We were at the top of the balloon. All of those cords being pulled off frame were being tugged by a group of guys who looked like they were in an epic tug of war battle. They were pulling on the balloon to help it layout straight as the air was pushed out of it.
It wouldn’t be our kids if they didn’t ask to help with something, and there was no hesitation from anyone on the balloon crew and they accepted the girls offer gladly. In no time the kids were helping to package up the balloon (or whatever the proper balloon terminology is.)
First of all the air was being squeezed toward the top end of the balloon so they could put straps around it. Both girls got to help with that part, but this is Lena taking charge of her straps.
Then they were asked to roll around on the balloon to help push the air out. Of course the kids jumped at this…literally. At one point I tried to remind the girls not to get their feet on the balloon, but the owner told me it was okay because the kids didn’t weigh enough to damage the balloon, so they rolled. And rolled and rolled and rolled. There was a lot of giggling going on too.
Overall we had a fantastic visit with the balloon crew. It was completely unexpected and I think we had a more educational trip than we would have if we had actually gone into the festival. However, one thing I know we missed was the glow. As the crew was packing up they said they had to hurry back because they had to relaunch the balloon in about an hour. After dark all of the balloons were going to be back and put up again, then at the same time they would all activate the burners so all the balloons would glow.
That would have been a beautiful sight!
No matter what, we had a blast and enjoyed helping tear down a hot air balloon. I can image there aren’t too many kids out there who could say they’ve had that opportunity.
Well, maybe more than I think.
Have you ever ridden in a hot air balloon? Tell me about your experience in the comments below.