lundi 15 septembre 2014

Round Two Brings Together Twenty-Two - Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival

After last year’s successful first event in a long time in High River, Alberta, a number of balloonists will once again descend on the Southern Alberta town for a fun and competitive event in late September.  This time, there are 22 balloons registered (with the possibility of a 23rd) for the Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival - a huge increase over last year.  With balloonists coming from Belgium, Alaska, Colorado, Ontario and across the West, this event is gathering momentum and this year is hosting the Western Canadian Championships (to compete, pilots must be members of the Alberta Free Balloon Society).
It is growing on the strength of a few good reasons: the town welcomed balloonists with opened arms last year even though it was in the early stages of recovering from a devastating flood, the event was well organized and timely (pilots can head to Albuquerque right afterwards – even though it’s 26 hours away, most crops have been cut and the potential for wild thunderstorms and hail in the evening is diminished permitting evening flights), and it is put on by a sharp and experienced team who are dedicated to building an excellent event…hopefully for the long term.

It is so exciting that Jason Adams and three other Ontarians are bringing their equipment across the country to be involved in addition to a few international pilots.  Adams will want retribution after not being able to get off the ground in last year’s last flight.  Still, he had qualified for the World Championships and in Brazil improved greatly over the 2012 result in Battle Creek.  Last year’s winner and Canadian champion, David Gleed, won’t be participating in High River this year meaning that whoever wins will be a new winner at this event.
There are a number of good candidates for that crown, including Adams, but also including pilots from across the West.  Young stars Cliff Skocdopole and Brant Leatherdale proved they were in it to win it last year while the familiar cast of previous Canadian champions including Dale Ritchie, Del Michaud, Dale Lang, Marvin Schultz, Glenn Penner and Bill Whelan can all find glory on September 28 if things go their way.  In fact, with local conditions playing such a huge factor, everyone has a shot at winning it all if they can figure out the mystery weather and understand the loggers.

Last year, one flight had winds heading from the Northeast to the Southwest, directly towards the High River Airport.  At flight time, winds could be found to go in any direction, except the Southwest, with Marvin Schultz winning one of the tasks simply by landing back where he took off.  Another flight saw winds increase from almost nil to over 30 kts meaning that only three balloons flew in the competition, yet the fiesta pilots enjoyed a safe, normal flight.
With the Rocky Mountains in the background, this year’s Western Canadians at the Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival should be another great showcase for ballooning for fans of intense competition and pretty shapes and colours* in the sky.

*Note – colours takes a “u”, I swear!

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