Operation Bucket List: Hot Air Balloon – Check
This past weekend I had the opportunity to hang out at the Empire State Balloon Festival at Barton Orchards. Saturday I was there doing some stuff for the radio station, enjoying all the sights and scenes of the event. The winds prevented the Saturday 6pm balloon launch to happen so we spent some time rescheduling rides for early Sunday morning and then capped off the night with a giant s'mores party and some fireworks - killer day.
Before I left on Saturday night, I was asked if I would be able to come back Sunday morning to help with the 6am balloon launch, and of course I said yes - having to be on site by 5am was no issue to see the balloons go up.
When I arrived on Sunday morning i'll admit I was a little exhausted, but excited to help get the balloons out. The balloon pilots all met up for their early meeting, launching a pibal (a helium filled balloon) into the air to give them an indication of the wind direction and all systems were a go for the 6am launch.
It was like 5:45am when I went out into the field to help one of the crews unload one of the character balloons when I heard someone from the radio station say "hey Val, come here, you're going up..." to which I thought I was heading to a different balloon.
He meant up, as in a hot air balloon, right then and there.
After I freaked out for a few minutes, I climbed into the basket with the help of our pilot, and the whole festival's 'balloon meister' Chris (yeah, it's a real thing, read more HERE) and up we went.
I don't even know that I have the proper words to describe the experience, and I literally get paid to talk for a living.....
Thrilling - breathtaking - exhilarating - unreal - incredible; those are what come to mind first, but i'll tell you, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and i'm so thankful to have had it.
I'll never forget the feeling of my first balloon ride, and i'm so thankful to the team that put together the Empire State Balloon Fest last weekend. Special thanks to Anthony from Townsquare Media for the opportunity, and the best pilot and balloon meister around, Chris, for calming me down as I freaked out, and for giving us such the chance to see the Hudson Valley from a different angle.
Up, up, and away....