Thursday, October 9, 2008

Oktoberfest Balloon Race

Last weekend, Troy and I had the pleasure of spending some time in south central Indiana with his family at their farm. It's the time of year for all of the festivals to start and since Indiana has such a strong German heritage, Oktoberfest festivities were on our agenda.

Saturday morning we enjoyed the Seymour Oktoberfest parade. Along with Troy and myself, his mom, dad, sister and nieces and nephew grabbed a seat in the grass along the parade route. Sitting in the grass seemed like a good idea until I realized that I had sat in what was essentially a briar patch. These tiny, painful balls of hell were sticking me in the butt. When I tried to gingerly push myself up using my hands, more of them punctured my palm. It was NOT a good time! Luckily Troy was nice enough to help me up and help to pick them off of me.

Despite Seymour being a relatively small town, they had a pretty long parade. There were three bands, LOTS of older model tractors, dancers, cheerleaders and princesses of all sorts and sizes. Perhaps the most disturbing float to me was the one advertising the local funeral home. It was all shimmery and piping lively music into the crowd. I would have perhaps thought of something a bit more somber. Odd.

Later that evening, Troy and I headed to the local high school where a hot air balloon race was set to start. We attended the event several years ago and were just fascinated by it all. It's an actual contest. There is a lead balloon that fills up and heads off. As soon as it leaves the ground, the other balloons are allowed to start being filled. At some point, the lead balloon drops a marker and the other balloons try to drop their markers as close to that spot as they can. Fun!

On my list is "Ride in a hot air balloon", so I went out on a limb and asked the operator of the lead balloon if I might be able to catch a ride with him. While he was very nice, he explained that that spot was already taken by the sponsor of the event. Oh well. It's worth it to ask.

We found a good spot along what we thought was the sidelines and settled in for the excitement to begin. Within a few minutes, the Remax balloon (the lead balloon) was nearly full and began swaying back and forth as the shreiking voice of the young children in it's path rang through the crowd. Not to worry, no one was in danger, but it was quite funny to hear the cadence of their yells as the balloon leaned down towards them and then swayed back the other way. Eventually, they got it under control and it was on it's way.

The other balloons, which up until now, had been neatly unfurled and lying flat across the football field, immediately started to fill with air generated by huge fans. It was quite a show. When they are way up in the air, they don't appear to be all that big, but right next to them on the ground, you realize they are HUGE. Yet, with those fans going, less than 10 minutes later, nearly all of the 17 chase balloons were filled and on their way towards the lead balloon. In some cases, it was all the balloon handlers could do to keep them from heading up prematurely. Hot air rising is an amazingly strong force, apparently.

In total, the whole show probably took less than 25 minutes, but if you ever get a chance to see one, I would highly recommend it. The beauty of the balloons close up as the sun is setting is simply amazing.

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