Hot air balloons delight early risers in Windsor

Posted: June 16, 2014 by kirisyko in Air, Hot air ballooning
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  • The 24th Hot Air Balloon Classic, an annual event in Windsor, draws hot air balloon pilots, as well as visitors, from around the state and country. (John Burgess / PD)

At first, the big, silver orb of the full moon hung alone in the sky over Windsor High School early Saturday morning. Then, shortly after 5 a.m., five hot air balloons started rising, one after another, glowing like floating lightbulbs in a dark room as flames shot into their colorful parachutes, called envelopes.

It was the start of the 24th annual Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic in Windsor. The festival draws hot air balloon pilots, as well as visitors, from around the state and country. It gives visitors a chance to see close-up how the world’s oldest, human-carrying flying technology works.

What appeared to be a couple hundred early risers stationed themselves on blankets in Keiser Park to watch the first balloons light off in what is known as “Dawn Patrol.” After the glowing globes floated into the sky, folks got up to buy a coffee or a pancake breakfast. “Come Fly With Me” played on the loudspeakers.

Hot Air Balloon Classic

The main balloon launch took place at 6:30 a.m., and by that time, a much larger crowd filtered in. Parents and their children watched teams set up the balloons by attaching propane burners to the top of a large wicker basket and spreading the multi-colored envelope across the grass. The envelopes billowed and rose from the ground as propane burners filled them with hot air.

“It’s a good turnout; the weather is perfect for a balloon event,” said Steve Henricksen, president of the event. He was referring to the cool air, the clear skies and still air.

Kids jumped around excitedly and pointed out their favorite designs to their parents. With the over-sized balloons suspended in the field and the smell of pancakes and syrup in the air, the event had the feel of a giant birthday party.

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