Canton, Ohio - It's out of this world.
A day after high winds postponed the initial launch, the Pro Football Hall of Fame Festival's Balloon Classic Invitational finally got off the ground on Saturday July 21, kicking off ceremonies leading up to the 2012 Enshrinement ceremonies at the HOF on Aug. 4.
On a picture-perfect day at Kent State Stark's campus, announcer Bill Smith told the thousands of onlookers it was the most balloons to ever launch for an event.
The event itself was not just a launch of balloons as most would think. Instead, it was a competition in which teams of three work with each other to drop a corn hole type baggie on a target in the middle of the field.
Another facet of this years race was the pilots attempt to grab a yellow ribbon
that was tied to the top of a pole the size of perhaps two basketball hoops. At stake with this was $3,000 in prize money.
There were a total of 13 teams in the event, each consisting of three balloons, including Craa-zee from Illinois and another called Stairway to Heaven out of Tallmadge. Janet Lutkus, from Medina had one of the more decorated balloons with her Moonlight Sun Ata.
A balloon can typically stay in the air for nearly two hours. Normally flights are around 200 to 500 feet above the ground, unless nearing a residential area where the FAA requires them to be at 1,000 feet. Getting a balloon in the air usually takes around 20 minutes as well as a crew of three along with a pilot.
Friday night, pilots got word around 6:30 that they would not be able to take their balloons up. While it was cool and cloudy, the winds in the upper altitudes were too high for safety, although one pilot from Pennsylvania laughed when he
found out. “I've flown in worse than this, this is nothing, it's just a little wind,” he said.
Little or not, safety according to event director Maury Sullivan is the biggest concern for the festival, which in 26 years has never had a major mishap.