GEARING UP FOR LIFT OFF
Creston prepares for the 36th annual Southwest Iowa Hot Air Balloon Days
Balloonists and spectators hope to continue 2012’s streak of four perfect flight conditions at the 36th annual Southwest Iowa Hot Air Balloon Days in Creston this weekend.
The main events of the upcoming weekend — a fun flight Friday night, two flights on Saturday and Sunday morning — are totally dependent on the area weather conditions.
The National Weather Service forecast is predicting clear, sunny skies for the Creston area all weekend with temperatures in the low 70s.
“Weather controls whether or not they are able to go up,” said Creston Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ellen Gerharz.
Wind speed may be the biggest factor. Roger Lanning, Balloon Days event coordinator, said the forecast is encouraging for another successful year.
He said the windspeed typically needs to be below 10 mph at ground level for the balloons to take off. Before each flight, the pilots meet to determine if conditions are safe to fly.
Gerharz said 44 balloonists are scheduled to participate this year. About 40 of the pilots are planning on attending the fun flight on Friday evening to help kick off the event.
“I look forward to seeing the people on the street on Friday night,” Gerharz said. “It really is a community event, that’s how it has lasted so many years.”
The city of Creston has a list of activities to compliment the ballooning no matter what Mother Nature decides for the weekend.
Saturday’s flea market and craft tables that usually run down both sides of Maple Street have been moved to the west parking lot at the restored depot.
The parade is scheduled to start 10:30 a.m. through uptown Creston. Area high school marching bands will be competing for trophies and some of the balloon pilots will have their gondolas in the parade.
At the airport, children can participate in the pet show and pedal pull. A night glow is scheduled after sunset.
Night glow is a chance for balloonists to show of their colorful balloons and contrast the night sky, putting on a visual show for spectators.
“We don’t often get the night glow in,” Lanning said. “It is a great event for families.”
Similar to past years, viewing locations for spectators and food vendors will be toward the north side of the airport.
“The balloonists realize it’s a community event,” Gerharz said. “In the past, they have allowed locals to crew for them and visited with members of the community.”
For a full schedule of events, see the Creston News Advertiser’s special section Thursday.
Since 2000, the balloons have been grounded five times. In 2001, the Federal Aviation Administration restricted flight because of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.
Cold temperatures, win and rain kept the balloons from taking off in 2004, 2006, 2010 and 2011.
2012 was the first time since 2009 that all four scheduled flights were able to take off.
Grant Pfeifer won the event in 2012. Brad Craig and Scott Armstrong finished second and third respectively.
Jim Thompson is the only repeat victor since 1987. He has won the event three times: 1987, 1992 and 1999.