On a clear breezy evening at Turf Valley, 21 hot air balloon crews unpacked their equipment in preparation for the annual Preakness Celebration Hot Air Balloon Festival. They attached envelopes – a bag capable of holding heated air – to the baskets and turned on fans before firing up the burners to get the colorful event underway. The festivities provided a close up look at the towering aircraft.
Mary Beth and Dick Young, of Parsippany, N.J., gave spectators the closest view by allowing them to walk inside the balloon “Going My Way.” The envelope for this balloon was built in 1985 and was retired in 2002. The coating on the fabric breaks down over time and eventually each envelope is taken out of service.
“[The balloon is] very much a dynamic art form, constantly changing,” Young said. On a clear day when beams of light stream down, it has a stained glass effect, he said.
“Tailwinds,” is one of four Maryland balloons at Turf Valley. Pilot Patrick Smith of New Market, attended the Preakness Balloon Festival when he was nine-years-old. Now Smith, his parents and wife are the team with the largest balloon in the state at 120,000 cubic feet.
Ron Broderick, from West Friendship, the balloon-meister extraordinaire said, “I think it’s the overwhelming power” of the balloons that brings people out. “The bigness of them and the rarity.”
It was too windy on the first day of the celebration for the mass ascension and the balloon glow. Broderick noted, “It takes patience and flying skills. There are so many times you can’t fly.”