With a roar, burners will ignite and send a stream of hot propane into the belly of these standing fabric monsters colorful orbs with names like Huckleberry, Phantasy Phive and Gypsy Wind.
The evening balloon glow will take place at the Traverse City Open Space, Friday and Saturday from approximately 9:30-10:30 p.m., and although the balloons will remain on the ground for the evening glow, spectators will have the opportunity to watch several take off during a sunrise or sunset fly out with balloons launching into the Traverse City sky Friday evening, Saturday morning, Saturday evening and Sunday morning.
Our preferred spot is launching out of the Open Space if the winds are out of the north, says Grand Traverse Balloon Classic organizer Jeff Geiger, but depending on the direction of the wind, we could launch from another location in the Grand Traverse area.
25 FOR 25
The Balloon Classicalso known as a balloon rallyis part of Grand Traverse Balloons 25th Anniversary. Started in 1986 by Geigerwho will bring his brand new 10-passenger balloon, Air Time, to the eventthe company has remained one of Traverse Citys strongest adventure businesses despite several years of an unpredictable economy.
Were on the bucket list, so people will always scrape up the change to do it, explains Geiger. We fly people from all different financial backgrounds. Some will save for a balloon ride for over a year while others will do it just to do it.
Aside from a fluctuating economy, other changes Geiger has seen over the years include the growth and development of the region.
Its changed the way we fly, Geiger notes of the dwindling farmlands and open property space, a vital component in hot air ballooning.
While spectators wont be able to actually ride in the balloons, they will have the opportunity to witness the inflation process at both the evening glows and fly outs. The 15 to 30 minute step-by-step process involves a pilot and crew laying out the balloon fabric (also known as the envelope), attaching it to the basket and inflating it through a combination of forced wind (by inflator fan) and hot propane.
The ideal conditions for flying include extremely light, variable winds, good visibility and cool, dry temperatures. The need for specific weather makes flying a day-by-day decision, requiring constant marine and weather forecast checks and updates.
All events are subject to the weather, Geiger says, adding spectators should check regularly for updates on flight time and location changes which are available two hours prior to each event through the Grand Traverse Balloons website, grandtraverseballoons.com, and by listening to radio stations WTCM AM 580 & FM 103.5, 93.5; and Z93 92.9 FM. Email blasts will also be available through TV 9&10 (sign up at 9and10news.com).
While the rally will host pilots from all over Michigan (two are coming from Nebraska and the Carolinas), most have not yet flown in Northern Michigan.
I told them to bring their life jackets, laughs Geiger, adding the beauty of the areathe amount of water and forestsis also what makes it so challenging to fly a hot air balloon.
Each flight allows me to take a moment and enjoy the really rare beauty of our area from a totally unique perspective. The pilots that are coming in for the event are going to be really excited, says Lesley Pritchard of Walloon Balloon Adventures in Walloon Lake, who will participate in the rally with her balloon, Talulah.
Pritchard has flown all over the world and has participated in hundreds of balloon rallies and races, but the 40-year veteran says Northern Michigan is by far her favorite place to float.
Im really looking forward to coming down and flying with Jeff and the other pilots. Were always looking to share the sky with other balloonists.
The Grand Traverse Balloon Classic is free and open to the public and will be held June 17-19, at the Traverse City Open Space. Events include an evening glow around 9:30 p.m., featuring approximately 25 balloons, on Friday and Saturday; as well as a fly out of several balloons around 7:30 p.m. on Friday & Saturday; and Saturday and Sunday around 6 a.m. Events are subject to the weather and may change time/location. Check for updates. Those interested in volunteering as crew for the event may contact Jeff Geiger at email@example.com. Crew must be familiar with the Grand Traverse area, have a clean driving record and be in good, physical condition. More information on the Balloon Classic is available at www.grandtraverseballoons.com.