Top flight weekend

Published: Monday, Sept. 23, 2013 10:58 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Sept. 23, 2013 11:57 a.m. CDT

It was a challenging weekend for the 44 registered ballonists competing at the 36th annual Southwest Iowa Hot Air Balloon Days in Creston.

The weather cooperated for two of the four planned flights during the weekend celebration.

The fun flight on Friday and Sunday morning’s flight were cancelled because of too much wind.

While the clear skies and calm winds were near perfect conditions for spectators watching the balloons fly Saturday, the lack of wind made picking a direction to fly a tough task.

“The winds were probably calmer than they ever have been,” said Balloon Days Event Coordinator Roger Lanning. “It was difficult for the competition because of the way the winds were so light.”

Matt Fenster of Bellevue, Neb., won the event. Brad Craig and Todd Isley, both of Carlisle, were second and third, respectively.

Shane Arends of Grand Island, Neb., was named rookie of the year.

Weekend activities

As the balloons hung in the sky waiting for a breeze Saturday morning, the view provided a backdrop for more than 125 runners as they circled McKinley Lake for the Southern Prairie YMCA 5K.

Then, the action headed uptown for the parade and flea market.

“The balloonists were pushed to get back to the parade in time,” Lanning said. “I flew, and we did not get back to the airport until after 10:20.”

At the airport Saturday afternoon, Lanning said participation numbers in the pedal pull were way up. More than 70 youngsters competed in the pull.

Lanning said the pet show drew about the same number of participants as last year.

After Saturday afternoon’s competitve flight, the balloonist gathered for the night glow event.

“I think it was probably the largest crowd we have ever had,” Lanning said. “It was easily the longest night glow.”

The evening event is usually a challenge for balloonist to stay grounded and keep the balloon upright because of wind.

“I was amazed that night, usually you are holding on to the basket for dear life to keep it grounded,” Lanning said.

Lanning said it was great to see so many people in Creston participating in the weekend activities.

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