Balloonists take to skies for annual event
Balloonists from the South West Regional Balloon Club hope to fill Wolfforth’s skies with a bit of hot air Sept. 8-9 during the South Plains Balloon Roundup in Patterson Park.
Mary Ann Slagle-Poteet, secretary of the club, said the annual event is held the weekend after Labor Day weekend. This year, it will have many of the balloons from previous years, but a new shaped balloon will also appear.
The Plains Capital Bank buffalo balloon has appeared the past five years at the Wolfforth balloon rally, but this year an enormous balloon called “The Old Lady and the Shoe” should fly on Saturday or Sunday, Slagle-Poteet said.
Chris Jones, pilot of that balloon and “Serenity,” which has made many appearances in Wolfforth, said he purchased the shaped balloon almost a year ago.
The average balloon, he said, is about 80 feet tall, but “The Old Lady,” as he calls her, is 124 feet tall. The balloon also weighs about 900 pounds, he said.
With a balloon that large, he said he will need a lot of crew members, but he said he will not be able to offer rides to everyone.
“It’s fun to come watch them, but it’s also fun to be a part of it and crew,” Jones said. “Tell everyone, they are welcome to come crew.”
Slagle-Poteet said those wanting to help crew for a balloon should plan to show up at Patterson Park early in the morning. Volunteers need to wear sturdy shoes, work gloves and outdoor clothing, and avoid clothing with drawstrings or nylon.
Jones said even 4-year-olds can do some tasks for crewing.
“If you’re going to own a balloon about a story book, you have to involve kids,” he said. “We have names for all of the kids (on the balloon) on our Facebook page. There’s one kid that has a wardrobe malfunction — his pants split open.”
Jones said the Wolfforth rally is the start of his official crew’s flying season. He plans to attend one more rally in September, the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in October and two more rallies in the Amarillo area in October.
Flying in the Wolfforth area presents pros and cons to balloon pilots, Jones said.
The worst thing is the wind, he said, which is frequently too strong to fly. Last year, Jones’ Serenity, a purple balloon, was the second to take off on Saturday morning. The Wolfforth police had to assist with the landing because the balloon came down in the middle of a street.
But that’s one of the pros of flying in the Wolfforth area: the people are friendly and helpful, Jones said. Wolfforth has lots of wide-open spaces, which is another benefit, he said, presenting “many options for us to land.”
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