Two of my brothers visited me from back East, so I wanted to find something for us to do together. Trouble was, I had literally just had surgery on my leg that morning, so we were limited in what I could do.
Fortunately, co-workers had told me about the National Balloon Classic being held in Indianola. Unfortunately, that Monday afternoon turned into a nasty, stormy day with occasional flashes of lightning. A dangerous evening for ballooning, but a nice one for dinner at one of the Jethro’s BBQ restaurants in Des Moines. (Note: all of us stayed away from their Carolina pulled pork since there’s only one place where one can get REAL Carolina BBQ.)
My brothers had left by Thursday. I wanted to try again, anyway. I was up early enough to go to the sunrise event, but I decided to wait for the sunset program that evening.
This time, I was much more fortunate as far as the weather conditions. The sky was cloudless and a gorgeous blue, allowing one to see for miles. This was my first live viewing of a balloon show, and I had no idea what to expect. So I decided to leave early enough to visit the nearby National Balloon Museum.
The greeter at the museum asked me to sign the guestbook and add a pin to a map of the US to represent my home. Even through I have lived in Iowa for ten years exactly, home is still North Carolina, so I put the pin there.
I wish I had allowed more time and hadn’t still needed to take it easy after my surgery. Other than watching a video on the history of ballooning, I rushed through the exhibits much faster than I wanted, but I got some pretty good shots.
After the museum, I headed to the site for the classic. (BTW, unless you like porta-potties, a restroom stop beforehand is advised.) The day was a reasonably warm 80-ish and still cloudless with a comfortable breeze. Still, I became concerned when it was announced that they might have to cancel because of the winds.
The grounds were built with sloping areas for seating, a stage for musical performers, and flatter areas for various activities, including lots of things to keep kids busy. I got there with time to spare and was able to find a space with shade that I hoped would provide a great view.
I had plenty of time to relax and enjoy the beautiful day, watch the kids playing, and get dinner (grilled hotdog–yum!) from one of the several carnival-style food vendors who had set up nearby. Suddenly, the PA announcer called out that the first balloon was approaching. In a play-by-play style more reminiscent of a football game, he explained that the pilots were competing to drop various objects in kiddie-pool sized circles positioned on a nearby hill, knock over a small building that looked like an outhouse or even grab a tiny ring off a pole. More than 70 pilots and their teams would have to gauge wind speed and direction to decide on departure points and how to approach the target area in order to take advantage of their one shot at the various prizes.
As each approached, the crowd–clearly more knowledgeable than I on what was going on–speculated excitedly about who had the best chances. I was more interested in the different designs of the balloons themselves, and my pictures reflect this, I’m afraid. The selections below of some of them approaching, attempting the target, and landing/deflating nearby after their runs.
Towards the end of the competition, a balloon began inflating nearby. It was a giant balloon named “Pete the Pirate,” I seem to recall. Below are a couple of shots I took as it inflated (you can see the flames generating the hot air in one) and a selfie with the balloon in the background.
There are two more days of the classic with a number of attractions scheduled. However, I’m glad I went on Thursday evening. It was just crowded enough to feel comfortable to me without being overly so–parking far from the entrance, long waits in the food line, people jockeying for positions, etc.
I had a very good time and only wish my brothers and I had been able to do the same on Monday while they were here.
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