August 31, 2012

Glow - Centralia Balloon Fest 2012

A recent visit with family in Centralia Illinois, provided me the opportunity to experience my first balloon glow. What a fun and unique experience it was! The glow was just one part of the three day balloon festival which also included balloon racing and target drops (the balloonists fly overhead and drop beanbags onto painted targets below).

The glow began around sunset on Saturday as the balloonists, who have traveled from near and far, begin to inflate their balloons. Have you ever seen a hot balloon inflate? I hadn't. I was surprised by what a lengthy and labor intensive process it is. Look at the yellow balloon below. There is a giant box fan and three volunteers working inside the balloon, in addition to several others working on the other side. There is also a very strong volunteer at the end of the rope next to where I was standing. As the balloon inflates more, the strong guy at the end of the rope will be responsible for guiding the balloon and keeping it from rising too quickly.

For a small midwestern town of only 13,000 the event certainly knows how to draw a crowd. In addition to the balloon festivities, there was also all your typical fair-type foods and numerous craft tables.

I appreciate craft shows much more now that I've begun to dabble in the art myself.  The crafters at this fair were exceptionally talented and reasonably priced too. I made a few small purchases, including this adorable crocheted owl hat, which I thought was a steal at only $15.

As the evening progressed, the balloons became more and more illuminated against the dark sky as their flaming ignition produced the event's namesake - glow.

The event's MC entertained the crowd by engaging the balloonists in a series of humorous questions, to which they could answer by various flame techniques, no flame at all, a steady glow, or a flicker. The MC also led the balloons (and the crowd) in the infamous wave as the balloons illuminated in sequence around the small pond we were gathered. Another highlight of the evening was watching the balloons "dance" to the YMCA. The whole event was definitely one of the more unique and enjoyable experiences of the summer. I'm hoping we can go back again next summer!

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