Balloonists talk of airborne joy

LAKE GEORGE Theres nothing like the freedom-filled experience of dangling in a basket while being propelled by the whims of the wind, balloonists said Saturday as they participated in Lake Georges Moonglow fest. Part of the annual Adirondack Balloon Festival held in the region this last weekend, the Moonglow event includes illuminating a series of looming balloons soon after dusk in Battlefield Park off Beach Rd. While they worked to inflate their balloons, both professional and part-time balloon pilots and crews talked about their passion, while huge crowds watched them inflate their rigs. Shane Cory of Arizona is a full-time, second generation traveling balloonist. The lifestyle is one-half rock star and one-half roadie, Cory said while standing in the basket of his massive anthropomorphized bee balloon. We get to travel around, stay in hotels and talk with the local media, but we also have to pack our gear and set everything up. Cory, who began flying with his father at the age of 12, said that ballooning provides a unique perspective on the earth and its inhabitants below. For me, flying is a thoughtful time, a time for introspection, he said, noting how silent it is. There is nothing more peaceful you realize how small we all are. Not all of the pilots on hand were full-time pilots. Many fly balloons as a hobby, while subsidizing their passion with jobs. A balloon pilot for 26 years, Russ parker said he wishes he could fly everyday. Unfortunately I have to work to pay for my flying time, Parker said. It takes a crew of four to just get my balloon up and running. Van Anderson of Morgantown, W.Va. is a retired parks and recreation director who discovered ballooning while on vacation in the Adirondacks two decades ago. He said that the experience forever changed his life. Entranced with ballooning, he sought out strategic help from Adirondack Balloon Festival Founder Walt Grishkot, and picked his brain about starting a festival in Morgantown. With Walts help we were able to start the Mountaineer Balloon Festival in West Virginia, Anderson said. Walt has impacted hundreds of thousands of lives.

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