Balloons! Balloons! and MORE Balloons!

For the last many years our town, #Sussex, #NB, has hosted the annual #AtlanticInternationalBalloonFiesta the week-end after Labour Day. Due to Covid, there hasn’t been one for a couple of years so when it was announced that THIS year it WOULD happen, the excitement far and wide was palpable!

Both young and young-at-heart enjoy the spectacle of multiple hot air balloons, some in unique shapes like this, others in the more traditional format, floating serenely across the sky shortly after dawn (or before sunset).

Pilots often arrive early and get a few flights in prior to the official start of the Festival, taking advantage of any good flying days. A good flying day is one with clear skies and minimal breezes. Often what feels like a kiss of wind on the ground can be quite strong when aloft and those winds determine whether it is safe to fly, or not. Balloons rely on air currents to navigate and the wrong wind could blow them severely off course and into dangerous situations.

I headed down to the show grounds at Princess Louise Park before dawn, arriving just after 6:a.m. Day was just beginning to break on the eastern horizon. Ground crews, follow vehicles (that would track where ‘their’ balloon was going and get there to help land the balloon, fold it up and tuck it and its basket etc. away in their trailer, and pick up the pilot and his/her passengers to return to the start spot), pilots, passengers and spectators weren’t long arriving.

Prior to each flight, pilots have a meeting and a trial balloon is sent up to test wind currents – direction and strength. Depending on the results, they are given the go / no-go decision. Today was a “Go”.

Once that’s decided, pilots are introduced to their passengers and everyone heads out onto the launch field to watch the inflation of the balloons. and to mount the baskets for their flight over the Kennebecasis Valley.

It takes a while. The initial inflation is done with huge fans and then, once the balloon has reached a certain level of inflation, the propane-fired blowers mounted on the baskets are turned on. That’s what is used to keep the balloons aloft once they take off. A crew hangs on to guy ropes to keep the balloon earthbound until the pilot and his passengers are loaded and ready to go. Once released, the balloons rise rapidly.

One by one they took to the skies. At times it looked like utter chaos and I was sure they’d bump into each other. The pilots are skillful and avoided connecting as they each found their own airspace and the breeze directed them out across the highway near Four Corners and off toward Smiths Creek

The following are just some of the 200+ photos I took in a short space of time. If you want to see any of them in more detail, just click on the individual image(s) to enlarge them.

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