Fabric covered clouds, as festive as Fiesta, float slowly over the fields of Floresville. The first Texas Balloon Spectacular got off to a late start due to high winds on Friday evening.
It only takes a few minutes for the ground crew to unload a balloon and basket from a truck or trailer and ten minutes to fill it with cold air. The balloon starts to lift after only two minutes of hot air. As the blue and orange flames from the propane tanks fill the silk fabric with air, the spectators’ eyes are filled with awe.
Several thousand guests paid $15 for parking to shop from 70 vendors for treats and toys – and to watch the balloons rise. The event, sponsored by Richard Kunz, developer of the Villages at River Bend, featured a “Great Ghostly Glow” Friday night. This free Halloween event, to be repeated Saturday, features balloons lit against the Texas night sky.
Dave Duncan serves on the balloon ground crew for his son Brian. “He just bought it six months ago,” Dave said. A used balloon is a bargain at $5,000; a new one will set you back $40,000. The home base for the Duncan’s blue and white aircraft, aptly named Checkered Past, is in Spring, Texas.
Fred Dinkler was a helicopter pilot in the Marines years ago. Now he flies a silken airship with a crazy quilt pattern. “His balloon is named Thursday’s Child,” his wife Christel said, “just like in the poem.”
Hector Corominas from Lewisville commands the Sky Gypsy. He has been flying his wavy rainbow craft for five years. The top of a balloon has a hatch to allow hot air to escape. That’s the way they control altitude.
Dave Smuck from Austin floats the Willie Nillie. It is festooned with yellow banners. A team from Switzerland flies the Fuego. A mosaic pattern covers its sides. The Pix from Katy has the colors and patterns of an old toy, the Pixiphone.
Stars owner Fred Edmiston is from San Marcos. He said the basket and gear weighs about 500 pounds; the balloon itself, another 300. “On a good day,” he said, “one that’s not too hot, I can travel three or four hours.”
These balloonists and others will offer tethered rides for only $10.00 Saturday (7 a.m.-9 p.m.) and Sunday (7 a.m.-3 p.m.), if winds permit. Several bands will play both days. Coming from San Antonio, take the first exit to Floresville on Business Loop 181 and follow the signs to the Villages at River Bend (101 Club Drive). Visit their website for more details.