The second annual South Texas Balloon Festival Starts Today.
Many pilots will take to the skies at the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show Grounds.
This event will be open from November 4th through 6th.
News Center 23 was invited to the festival and here is my first experience at this festival:
I showed up bright and early not knowing what to expect. As the sun was beginning to rise, I was joined by a hot air balloon crew at an empty field at the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show Grounds. Soon I surrounded by many volunteers, pilots and of course Hot Air balloons.
I was assigned to the Desert Lily, a hot air balloon with an experienced pilot. Watching crews assemble over a dozen 70 foot balloons made it an unforgettable sight. One by one, balloons made their way off the ground. Then time came for my first “on air” interview, 1000 feet in the air to be more accurate.
“I’ve been flying airplanes and gliders for 20 years. Picked up ballooning 2 years ago. I loved the peacefulness of it and social aspects. Getting out with other balloonists and getting some flights done,” says Pilot Dave Griffin.
This balloon festival was founded to provide the South Texas community a place where flying the skies could become a reality. Being this high up in the air gives you a unique view of the valley.
“The balloon flies because of buoyancy, the area in the envelope has to stay hot so there’s a standard burn every 20 seconds for about 3 or 4 seconds to maintain flight,” says Griffin.
Hot air balloons cannot be steered. The winds determine where we’re going. The pilot makes sure we’re in the right altitude. Flights occur in the mornings because riding during day could be unsafe with a hot atmosphere. Then there’s the landing. There’s no landing gear… so holding on tight is a must.
Even though I complained the landing was rough, the pilot stated it was smooth.
We landed in Weslaco, there’s no steering back on hot air balloons so we had a crew drive us back to Mercedes.
Altogether the flight lasted about an hour. Sunrise and sunset, there is a balloon ride scheduled. Those that don’t or won’t make the rides can still enjoy the nightly balloon glows.
The Balloon Fest will also host skydiving, concerts and family events.
Sudden rain or severe weather may interrupt balloon flights.