Flying High: A Day at the Hot Air Balloon Races!


It was a picture-perfect day for a balloon race at the National Balloon Classic, in Indianola, IA yesterday!


This national balloon competition attracts over 100 balloonists from all over the country to come to compete in a week long event.


We only had to drive about 30 minutes south through the gorgeous, Iowa countryside to get there!


Uhhh, one problem…we got there about 3 hours early. Rookie mistake!


The gates opened around 3 (earlier than the 4:30 sign said) but apparently it doesn’t take 3 hours to set up a hot air balloon for a 6:30 launch time…


Just us and the crickets for…a long time. ;)


Luckily the food vendors were already there, setting up shop. Yes!


We each got what is my hands down favorite “festival” food – corn dogs.

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It’s funny how in the “real world” I wouldn’t dream of eating a corn dog, but it’s clearly assumed that I will be CHOWING down on one when present at a festival or fair!


It was piping hot outside, so we set up shop underneath a shady tree and settled in for the wait.

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In about three hours, the crowd went from this:


to this! It grew larger and larger with each passing minute, as the anticipation of the balloon launch grew.


To kick things off, three balloons were inflated for people who had arranged/paid ahead of time to take a ride. Don’t know how I missed that boat.


The balloons are filled with cold air to get them inflated and standing upright.


They went up fast!!



When they’re just about ready to launch, someone lets a helium-filled balloon go so the pilots can get a read on wind speed and direction. See the tiny, red balloon?


As soon as the pilots were given the signal, they turned their cold air off, and fired up the flames. The air inside the balloon has to be 100-250 degrees hotter than the air outside the balloon, to lift the basket. Let me tell you, as soon as that air gets hot enough – those babies are off like little rockets!

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This is no slow and gradual ascent, it’s – one second you’re on the ground, and the next, you are 100 feet in the air! Ben was completely nauseous at this point. (He is TERRIFIED of heights. Don’t worry, he got over it!)


After the passenger balloons took off, the competitors took to the field to lay out their balloons.


So the competition part? The “balloon maestro” – the guy who’s running the competition” – gives the balloonists a task before each launch (they launch twice a day.) Depending on how well they complete the task, they get a certain number of points. Whoever has the most points at the end of the week – wins!


Yesterday they were playing a game called hare and hound. There were two balloons that launched first – the “hares” – who went out into the countryside and dropped two bullseyes on the ground.


The task for each balloonist was to launch as fast as they could, find the “hare” and drop a beanbag as close to the bullseye as possible. The closer you get, the more points you get. FUN!!!


It was seriously like MAGIC how fast these balloons filled up and took off. They were materializing out of thin air and pop, pop, popped right off the ground! (I love this picture of Father + son!)


Up into the sky they went!


Dozens of them launching into the sky about every 15 seconds or so.

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They’re all named too. Apparently you name hot air balloons like you do a boat!


Can you see the guys waving?! HA!



It was truly a spectacular sight seeing them float off into the distance, racing off to catch the hares!


Scarily – the balloonists can only control up and down motion, they basically have very little say in what direction they go. It’s all up the wind at that point!


Don’t they look like little UFO’s?!


Soon, the last of the balloons started to leave the ground. It took a good 45 minutes to get all 100+ of them into the sky. Magically, none of them bumped into each other!




It was such a clear evening that you could see them from miles and miles away.


It may have been a smidge on the dorky side, and Ben and I may have been the youngest people there without kids by, oh, 30+ years, but this was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. I got some info about possibly taking a ride this week, so we’ll see where that discussion goes!!!!!!!!!!!!! UPDATED TO ADD: I GOT MY RIDE!!


After all the excitement, ( ;) ) we came home and crashed. A day spent in the sun wears a girl and a guy out! Early to bed means early to rise, though. And I’m sitting here listening to the birds and the early-morning crickets with some toast and coffee.


Oh summer,


please don’t end!


Have a great day guys!!!


Do you have any dorky hobbies or interests?

I say, nothing’s dorky if YOU love it!!

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  1. That looks like SO much fun! I love the pictures :)
    Hmm…is reading dorky!? Or being a film nerd!? Other than that, I’m way too cool :p :P

  2. cj 08.01.2010

    i’m a total band geek.

    loooove the pictures of the balloons. what a neat event!

  3. I used to live in Wellsville, NY where they have a big balloon rally with parade and all. I went every year and always want to go back just for the fun. I made Hunni promise that he will take me on a ride one day.

  4. Melanie 08.01.2010

    I am hugely into genealogy!

    I hope you are able to catch a flight!!! My relatives used to be big in ballooning – to the extent of having a specially sized garage door to be able to haul the balloon and basket into the garage! I have flown once and what struck me the most is how quiet and peaceful it is when you are in the air. :)

  5. Heather 08.01.2010

    oh my goodness! we had a balloon festival here in colorado a few weeks ago, but nothing like this! i love the shots of all the balloons up in the air…beautiful!

  6. I can’t believe how beautiful the balloons are!

  7. Daisy 08.01.2010

    what an incredible event! such gorgeous pictures you took. Corn Dogs are my go-to fair/carnival food as well. But I need to have ketchup and mustard on them!

  8. Exercise and Eat 08.01.2010

    A lot of people I know think blogging is dorky! How little they really know:)

  9. Sara 08.01.2010

    The balloons are so beautiful, especially against the blue sky!! :D Looks like tons of fun! It’s funny that you say that about corndogs…it seems like everyone has a few food items that they scorn in day to day life, but will eat it in the right setting. This morning, for example, I was REALLY craving chocolate poptarts….so I had a pack! Definitely not healthy, but my craving was satisfied and tomorrow I will return to my regular breakfasts! :)

    I have SO many dorky interests – I still watch Spongebob, I looooove Harry Potter, I play Pokemon on my gameboy (LOL) and I’m really into anime. Wahoooo!

  10. jassy 08.01.2010

    hot air balloon is always fun to watch up in the sky or inflated :) i’ve also seen hab in different shapes and forms :)

  11. This looks like such a memorable day! When I was a little girl, probably 4, we went to something similar… but with probably only 5-10 balloons. I remember the “magical feeling” as well. So glad you had a great day!

  12. Kelsie 08.01.2010

    I just recently started reading your blog and I really enjoy it! I feel like I have a lot of dorky hobbies but quilting and knitting are probably the top 2. By the way I’m only 21 years old that’s what makes it dorky. Don’t worry about being the youngest at the balloons without kids, my boyfriend and I went too without kids.

  13. jen 08.01.2010

    That is truly amazing! I’ve never seen anything like it! Beautiful.

  14. Dawn Patricia 08.01.2010

    Oh wow! I’ve never seen anything like this before, although I’m terrified of going in a hot-air balloon (I’m with Ben on the heights thing!). You know, I’ve never had a corn dog that wasn’t from the frozen foods section of Wal-Mart. I don’t really think there are any places to get them in New England (we just got like our first Sonic ever!) and I honestly don’t think I’ve seen a vendor at any fairs! Don’t feel bad- my husband and I don’t have children yet so when we do things we’re often the “only ones” without kids or we have other family members/friends asking us the question of when we’ll extend our family. ;) Dorky hobbies? I play computer games and I’m an adult! Haha- some people don’t get that ;) By the way, I love that Blue Bunny travel mug!!!

  15. Elizabeth MDS 08.01.2010

    Thank you for sharing all of your beautiful pictures! The balloons are gorgeous! And, unfortunately, I have not much time for dorky hobbies, but I *am* some what of a dork in general. LoL! (I lead a pretty boring life, LoL!)

  16. I love the pics of the balloons!!! Such fun! I’ve never been to this, but I’ve always wanted to go!

  17. Laura Mack 08.01.2010

    Very fun photos! The balloons are so beautiful!

  18. Jill 08.01.2010

    We love taking hikes or walks on trails and just looking at stuff. I love to take pictures of trees, leaves, animals and even bugs. We love to be outside – just this weekend we attended the Cox Classic in Omaha. It was fun to just people watch. We also are big dorks that stay in and watch seasons of The Office. Love that show, even though it is not as funny as it used to be so we watch the older episodes.

    Maybe you have said this before, but what kind of camera do you have? I want to get a new one for Christmas. You always take beautiful pictures.

  19. Erin 08.01.2010

    The balloons make for some wonderful shots, don’t they? Looks like you had a fabulous time. Summer in Iowa… sigh.

  20. Dream Mom 08.01.2010

    Beautiful pictures, especially the one with all of the balloons in the sky!

    As for hobbies, I enjoy tablescaping (creating beautiful table settings); I belong to a internet blogging group and women post pics of their tablescapes. It’s really fun to see beautiful dishes and different heirlooms that have been passed down plus see all of the creative ways people decorate their tables for the holidays and every day.

  21. Liz @ Blog is the New Black 08.01.2010

    Looks sooooo cool!

  22. Run Sarah 08.01.2010

    What a fun event – the photos turned out beautiful, too!

  23. Lisa 08.01.2010

    You should check out the Kodak International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque NM. They have it every year during the first full week of October. 500+ balloons from all over the world come to ABQ. Totally cool. They have a website. You’d love it!

  24. Jessica 08.01.2010

    I bet my son would LOVE something like that – and I wouldn’t mind going either ; )

  25. Amber 08.01.2010

    Riding in a hot air balloon has been on my bucket list for years now! I looked into riding one this week, but I don’t think my schedule will permit it! :( I also hint to every guy that I date that I really want to do this… maybe the “right one” will follow through? HAhahahaha!

  26. Sally Davey 08.01.2010

    We live by the balloon field, you are welcome anytime to sit at our house and watch them. Early morning is the best time, so peaceful!

  27. Jessica Lee 08.01.2010

    that is totally awesome!! I want to ride in a hot air balloon one day. Dorky? prob everything in my life. Haha.

  28. Jenna 08.01.2010

    Wow, the hot air balloon races look like so much fun! Darn my living in North Dakota…we aren’t that spunky. I see maybe one every summer, but it always happens to be over in Minnesota. I might have to move.
    My dorky hobby is definitely Harry Potter. I am a nut for that stuff! I go to midnight premiers of movies (and will wait in line from early morning until the showing that night). I celebrate Potter-related holidays. For instance, I watched the fourth movie with my bestie yesterday to celebrate Harry and J.K. Rowling’s birthdays. I can’t get enough of it for some reason. It’s my own personal nerdism.

  29. Lena 08.01.2010

    wow! it’s so breath-taking!!! such a wonderful array of colours! i’v always wanted to ride in one but when i was in melbourne studying, it was too expensive for me to go on one.. i will attempt to now that i am self providing!

  30. Dawn 08.01.2010

    OMGosh, those are soooo b e a utiful! Lovely. Seeing it in person must have been amazing!

  31. Wendy 08.01.2010

    I’m going to be teaching high school chemistry and physics this fall, so yeah, you could say I’ve got some dorky interests. :)

    We have a balloon launch in our little town every fall, and they do the hare and hound game. If the wind is right, they come right over my house. I think they are so beautiful and peaceful – I’d love to ride in one some day, too!

  32. oh my gosh these pictures are absolutely gorgeous! I love all of the balloons against the bright blue sky. I’m totally jealous!

  33. Dana 08.01.2010

    The photos you took are fantastic. I have always wanted to go ballooning.
    My dorky hobby is I still really love science like in school. I read a lot of books about it.

  34. kellyO 08.01.2010

    I highly recommend booking a ride in a balloon. We went several years ago when in Albuquerque, as the sun was coming up! Great experience but Ben may want to watch from the ground-poor guy.

  35. Erica 08.01.2010

    Wow! That looks amazing and your pictures came out great! What an experience! Don’t worry, I drag my bf to tons of things that he always points out “did you notice we’re the only child-less couple here??”

  36. That looks like a good day out to me, so clearly I am just as cool as you!! The photos are brilliant and really seem to capture the day.

  37. oh my – how wonderful!!!! The colours looks amazing! And I know what you mean about ‘carnival food’! I head straight for the “carny corn’ whenever I go to a festival!

  38. Cyndi 08.01.2010

    We used to have a “Lighter Than Air” festival in my home town every year. We didn’t have nearly as many balloons as yours did, but it was always so much fun to watch the balloons take off.
    In terms of dorky interests I would have to say my penchant for collecting pens definitely puts me on the dorky side.

  39. OMG hot air ballooning scares me too. I’d be worried of falling out of the basket, of floating too far away. But the pictures are amazing. What a sight. I’d love to go and watch that too.

  40. Bridget 08.01.2010

    Wow-amazing pictures! That event is definitely on my list for 2011.

  41. Mimi 08.02.2010

    Those pictures looks beautiful! I always think it’s cool to see even just one balloonist, so I can only imagine how magical it must be to see 100!

  42. christy 08.02.2010

    beautiful pictures! That looks like so much fun!

  43. Steve 08.02.2010

    We go to that every year. I’ve been on a balloon ride. It was incredible. Would love to go again.

  44. Ashley 08.02.2010

    If you ever have the chance to go on a hot air balloon ride, do it! I have been on one ride when I was younger, and it was an amazing experience. If you ever go to Denver, check out The Outlaw. Ken is a family friend and will show you a great time!

  45. Corinne 08.02.2010

    what awesome pictures!! all i keep thinking is, HOW did they not bump into one another, for real! ha. next year you and ben will be some of the lucky ones IN the balloons :)

  46. Julie S. 08.02.2010

    I feel exactly the same way about corn dogs! MUST have them at a fair, but wouldn’t dream of eating one any other time of year. :)

  47. Jacki 08.02.2010

    My husband took me for a balloon ride for my 40th birthday. It was so fun that we got tickets for my parents for Mother/Father’s day. Mom is terrified of heights but she loved it (once she stood up and could see over the basket)! I’m from Dubuque, we left from East Dubuque IL. Beautiful!

  48. Sassy Molassy 08.02.2010

    Aw, you fulfilled one of your bucket list goals! Fun! My mom used to wake us up at like 5am one morning every summer to go watch the balloons fly over town. Loooved those memories.

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