“Up, up and away, my beautiful, my beautiful balloon” could be the theme song for any hot air balloon festival. Even though there wasn’t a chance to hit the skies personally, it still was a pleasure to watch the colorful balloons take to the air at the 31st annual Coshocton Hot Air Balloon Festival. The scene in the middle of the Coshocton Fairgrounds doesn’t appear very exciting at first glance…just filled with trucks and trailers. But this would all change before the evening was over. This scene could occur at two times of the day since just before sunset or near sunrise are the best two times for flying.
Seems that man has always wanted to fly! The first hot air balloon ascended way back in 1783 in France. The Montgolfier brothers, paper manufacturers, created a special balloon using a combination of linen and paper. Capturing the magical smoke from the fire, they were able to lift a basket, for about fifteen minutes, carrying animals: a sheep, duck and rooster. At Coshocton Fair Grounds, the Montgolfier name lives on through a business called Montgolfier Balloon Gift Shoppe, where you can find everything imaginable for the balloon enthusiast.
The father of modern day ballooning, Ed Yost, made the sport more practical by building the balloon from nylon, later taffeta, and heating the air inside with a propane burner. The Balloon Works developed a parachute valve so the amount of air inside could be controlled to vary altitude and even land. Rattan wicker baskets carry pilot, passengers, propane tanks, and equipment needed to control the balloon. A variometer shows vertical speed, a digital temperature gauge reflects balloon and air temperatures, and an altimeter tells how high the balloon is above sea level.
In the center of the track is a flag pole with a red flag hanging, which indicates the launch isn’t ready to proceed. Sometimes shows must be cancelled if weather analysis determines there is either not enough wind to fly or if the wind direction is constantly changing. But tonight the wind blows favorably and the crowd cheers as the flag is changed to green. It’s time for the men to start blowing up the balloons with their handy propane tanks. Anticipation is the name of the game as each balloon is stretched out on the ground, slowly filled with gas, and finally launched into the sky.
Out in the countryside, two targets have been placed to make the evening a little more challenging. Whoever comes the closest to these targets will receive the highest score. Just being part of this spectacular balloon launch would be reward enough. Approximately twenty balloons headed for the hills to see where they would land, which basically depends on where the wind takes them. The only real control the pilot has is to either make the balloon ascend or descend by controlling the heat in the balloon.
At dusk, a special Night Glow lit up the evening sky while the balloons were anchored instead of being launched. This spectacular sight is created as the hot air balloon burners illuminate the colorful fabrics of the balloons against the twilight sky. Only six groups participated in the finale here, but displayed some beautiful synchronized lighting patterns.
The only way this day could have been more spectacular is to have been riding in one of the baskets below the hot air balloons. Perhaps someday you can experience the thrill of soaring through the air as there are places in Ohio. such as Hot Air Balloon Rides, that have some pretty exciting trip packages. Look for a hot air balloon launching wherever you happen to live or visit.
The Irish, in typical tradition, added this toast to hot air ballooning, which describes the journey very accurately:
The winds have welcomed us with softness. The sun has blessed us with it’s warm hands. We have flown so high and so well that God has set us gently back into the loving arms of mother earth.
Come fly with me!. As you soar into the air like a bird on the wing and feel the touch of the air on your skin, relax and enjoy the serenity of this beautiful adventure.
Every June, The Coshocton Hot Air Balloon Festival is held at the Fairgrounds in Coshocton, Ohio. Coming into Coshocton on Route 36 , exit at Roscoe Village then proceed over the bridge on Chestnut Street past the courthouse. Make a left turn on 7th Street and after several blocks you will arrive at the Coshocton Fair Grounds on the left side of the street.