CyHawk Tailgate Week

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National Balloon Classic

Indianola, Iowa 

Des Moines and it metro area have help so many amazing adventures, but one thing I had not yet done was make the 20 mile trek south to Indianola’s National Balloon Classic.  The plan had always been to simply attend the annual hot air balloon festival.  But, this year is not dishing out mediocrity – I got to fly.  Enter Indianola-native, hot air balloon pilot Canna Walter.  She grew up with her father piloting hot air balloons and has now taken over his high-flying bundle of nylon.  So, when asked by her to aid in these high flying adventures, of course, we said yes!

The Prep
This seems like such an obvious part of ballooning, but it is also such an important one: take wind readings, route course to find where to take off to hit the destination target, get dusty from gravel roads, and find homes that will let us take off from their property. 

Finally, we find a suitable place for departure and send up a “piball” (pilot balloon).  The piball is a black helium filled balloon about the size of a basketball (or party ball keg).   We find that the wind has changed, so we hop back in the Toyota SUV with its enclosed trailer full of balloon goodies and head to a new location.   Another piball is sent up, and, while not an optimal location, we are running out of time and need to get in the air.

Blow, Blow, Blow
As a ballooning rookie, I get assigned a job that has limited responsibility.   That’s right, I’m the Fan Girl.   I watch from behind the whirring motor of the three-foot-tall fan as the balloon begins to inflate.   Color me impressed, this thing is getting huge.  I look to the east and see another balloon inflating.  It is towering a 2000 square foot house as it fluffs up with fan air.   When our own balloon is nearly inflated, Canna lights the its propane burner.  It starts to rise off its side and into a vertical lift-off position.   She gives me the sign to cut the fan and hop in the basket. 

Official Ballast
I haven’t had too much responsibility up to this point, but now, my job title has changed to Balloon Ballast.  Duties include not jumping out of the balloon and trying to stay out of the way.  

The Flight
Lifting off in a hot air balloon is such an eerie feeling.  It seemed as though the Earth was falling away while we hovered above.   Then, **LOUD NOISES!** as Canna pulls the burner to take us higher, quickly changing to silent and serene as we float above the world.   The wind is too gentle, so we change altitudes a couple times to try to catch a proper speed.  At points, we are skimming across an unharvested soybean field then riding the tops of tree lines.  We end our flight at the edge of the balloon fields.  We are not on target, but elated none the less.

After experiencing the Balloon Classic from an insider’s perspective, I don’t know if I will be able to settle into the grandstands.  The up-close experience had me back in Indianola two more times to help with Canna’s balloon while others were able to seize their chance at flight.  Needless-to-say, this Fan-Girl will be back for more next year.    
Things We Love To Do Around DSM!
  1. Farmer's Markets
    Tuesday- Beaverdale and Johnston Wednesday-Altoona and Waukee Thursday-Valley Junction Saturday-Downtown Des Moines and Ankeny
  2. Wednesdays 5:30-9
    Zoo Brew
    Look at animals at the Blank Park Zoo, drink adult beverages and listen to live music.
  3. Happy Hour Favs
    Fong's Ankeny The Flying Moose Down Under Fridays Bar Louie
  4. Fav Patio Bars
    Saints-Beaverdale Wellman's Rooftop 300 Craft & Rooftop Gilroy's Pub & Patio Whiskey River-Ankeny
  5. Dancing
    Miss Kitty's Denny Arthurs The Garden Cabaret West Glen Lime Lounge
  6. MIxology @ The Science Center of Iowa
    Mix. Mingle. Music. Science. Mix your Friday night up with drinks, mingling, science and entertainment! 21+ crowd: This night is exclusively for you! The first Friday of every month from 5:30 – 9:00 pm, experience all that the Science Center of Iowa has to offer – minus the kids. Grab a cocktail and enjoy live music from local bands and adult-themed presentations and programming!