Sunday, September 20, 2015

Aututmn Aloft

About 20 years ago, Park City had a balloon festival, but it became very popular and apparently outgrew itself, so it died.  Last year they got it started again and it was a big success.  Unfortunately, we were out of town and missed it.  This year I missed the first day, but caught the second.

Here are my two assistant photographers for the morning.  If it looks like Julie is overdressed for this time of year, it is in the low 30s, which is actually a good bit warmer than yesterday morning. Jasper, of course, is completely indifferent.
They festival is held on the North 40 fields.  For those who have been to Park City and seen the giant "PC" up on a hillside, this is right at the base of that hill.  We got there around 7:30 and a lot of the balloons were being rolled out for inflation.
They fill the balloons with portable fans until they have mostly taken shape.  Then they start firing up the burners.  I have to guess that a few balloons each year catch fire at this phase.
The flag balloon on the left is ready to go.  The rest are all still being inflated with fans.  The impressive thing is that a decent fan was able to inflate a balloon in about 5 minutes.
The launch starts.  We have now moved up the hill to get a different perspective.  I wish they would start about 15 minutes later.  These photos are tough when the balloons are in the shade and the background is bright and sunny.
There was wonderfully little wind this morning.  That meant that they could rise slowly and hang around the field.  I don't think they could have designed better weather.
 Pretty soon, they were taking off every few minutes.
In total, I think I counted 20 balloons, one of which remained tethered to the ground, providing people with little 50 foot rides.
Our fall tree colors are pretty terrible this year.  They have mostly been going quickly from green  to brown to gone.  Some years the mountains would have offered a much more colorful backdrop.
 With the air being so incredibly still, any surface of water provided mirror-like reflections.
The North 40 fields are over near the Park Meadows golf course and the festival had arranged to be able to use the golf course as a landing zone if that's where the winds were heading.  This turned out to be fantastic.
 Like most golf courses, Park Meadows has some ponds.  The first fun was just capturing the reflections.
 Then we sat and watched a game the balloons like to play.  They come down so that their baskets just touch the water.  That had to be a great ride for all of them.

It was cold enough to have a frost hold on the golf course, but I hope they hadn't scheduled any tee times for the morning anyway.  It would be tough to get your golf ball on the green with  a giant yellow balloon in the way.
 It is probably too small to see in this photo, but on the left bank of the pond, there is a woman standing outside her house in her bath robe taking pictures.  The balloons were coming right over her house.
Here was our water skimming champion.  He kept the basket right at the water's surface and went across the pond like he had a boat.  They probably went 200-300 yards doing this.
And we end with all reflection, no balloon.

Congrats to the people running the Autumn Aloft festival.  It was easily accessible, free to attend and a spectacular sight.  I was walking by one woman who said to her friend "Isn't it incredible to be somewhere where every single person has a huge smile on their face?"

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