Up, Up and Away...

The Balloon "Sunburst" high above the Schroon Lake Central School Sunday Evening

The wind bristled in the upper tree branches in the forest of green that surrounds The Schroon Lake Central Schroon on Sunday.

Todd Monahan, the pilot of Sunkiss Balloon rides, based out of Glens Falls. looked worried. Shelby Davis, organizer, of the Schroon Opening Weekend, and the balloon ride  looked nervous. And the crowd of eager balloon-riders, was uncertain if they would float above the school inside a basket, or be forced to bag the experience and head home.

“If you can feel the wind in your hair, we are not going up,” Todd told us.

“While it may look calm down here, a ride – even with a little wind – can be a very unpleasant experience for riders.”

Luckily for all, Mother Nature, who turned on one of her worst performances in Memorial Day history, made up for the crappy weather she has dealt us and the wind magically died down.

With the help of some newly anointed crew – picked from the crowd – Todd and his team got to work getting the balloon up. First air is blown into the massive balloon. I was able to get some photos of Todd inside (see the slide show above) inspecting the interior of the balloon.

Moments later Todd hits the switch on the liquid gas and the burner lights up, its flame carrying hot air deep inside he cavernous structure.



Several minutes later, the balloon was full – of hot air and its first load of passengers.  I shared the first ride with Joanne Mocker Piterniak and her family. We were all hot balloon ride first timers.

It was a surreal experience. We hardly noticed we had lifted off, before we were gently floating high above the school, and the folks and cars below looked smaller and smaller.

We were in good hands with our FAA certified Captain Todd, who had recently returned from a show in New Zealand where he flew his newest balloon, Chief Responder (below)

 We all wished we could have gone higher and longer. But we were all happy with our first outing.

The tethered ride itself was sort of an appetizer. “I definitely want to do the real thing now,” Joanne announced. We all agreed.  You can check out all of Todd’s upcoming rides on his Facebook page.