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big balloons in Plano, Texas.  Every September they bring dozens of hot air balloons to this city near Dallas.Big balloons in Plano, Texas. Every September they bring dozens of hot air balloons to this city near Dallas. Max Hartshorne photos.

 

The Plano Texas Balloon Festival Every September





In 2012, I attended the Plano Texas Balloon Festival in late September. Because of high winds, my pilot, Ann Kirby, of Houston, decided not to go up in the "Morning Kiss" with me. But all around us pilots and support staff were getting ready to fly, in spite of the winds.

Plano's balloon festival is the second largest in the country, the title goes to Albuquerque, where more than 300 balloons gather and fly over a two week period. This festival is just three days, and attracts up to fifty pilots and support staff from throughout the southwest.

Flying a balloon is a pretty inexact science, Ann told me. You just have to go where the wind blows you, but before you do any flying, there's a lot of huffing and puffing that has to take place. That's where the support staff all come in, each balloon has at least six or seven members of a team to chase it, get it up in the air, and rescue the crew if there's a mishap.

Balloon time is always very early in the morning, before the sun even comes up. That's when we set out with Ann and her crew and we began unbundling the big envelope in the dim light of early dawn. Everyone is thinking about wind...is there too much? Will it blow us in the wrong direction, which would be downtown Plano, will we even be able to get up in the air.

But the funny thing is that these devoted balloonists don't really care if they fly. They love being with their fellow balloonists, love prepping for the ride, and just love everything about their expensive hobby.

Inflating the envelopeInflating the envelopeOh, there are some prizes too, but like in many other sports like amateur horse racing and stock car races, they hardly pay for the propane. If you land on a target at the fairgrounds you get a $200 check.  

But the best thing about the Plano Balloon Festival is watching the balloons flare up at night, while they are all anchored in the infield, with more than 60,000 spectators looking on.

The announcer gets into the act, encouraging the pilots to flare and flare again, counting down until it's time to pull that propane handle and fill the air with dramatic flames.


Visit the Plano Balloon Festival website

View more photos of the balloon festival

 Emptying the bag


Pushing the envelopePushing the envelope
 

Nighttime is the most spectacular time to see the inflated balloons.Nighttime is the most spectacular time to see the inflated balloons.




The crew very early in the morning. 

Food is a big part of the festival, with dozens of booths with high calorie goodies.Food is a big part of the festival, with dozens of booths with high calorie goodies.







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