Last weekend we attended a hot air balloon rally in Loveland, Colorado. Dubbed the Sweetheart Balloon Festival Rally there were about twenty Airstreams parked in the traditional Wally Byam circle. The hosts are balloonists themselves. They call theirs Serenity.
This was the first time they had ever organized and hosted a rally. By the end, I suspect they were disappointed with the results and even apologized to me and I imagine to others, but there was no need for that. I told them that all the great annual rallies have a less than perfect beginning and that we have to accept that some things are simply beyond our control.
Like the weather. Colorado’s is unpredictable and sudden. One moment the wind can be a gentle breeze and the next can be a microburst. And that’s how it happened. The hosts hoped for all of us to gather in the middle of the circle for happy hour and socializing. They erected some shelters and tables there all weighted down with bricks and big containers filled with water.
It came at siesta time. I’d just laid down for a nap when the microburst hit the campsite. Tables flew into the tents, which then collapsed and bent the frames. The tents acted like kites in the wind and in my mind I pictured them lifting off, bricks in tow, flying across the campground into the surrounding Airstreams.
It is in times like that when people come together. Men, women, and children sprinted from their trailers to the center of the circle to hold everything down, collapse the tents, pin down the tables. Most of those items were damaged beyond use, but the trailers were saved.
The punishment continued that night. A weather front moved into the area with seventy-five mile-per-hour winds just as hundreds of cars were being driven away from the fairgrounds to the north. All that traffic moving through the dirt parking lots kicked up a tremendous amount of dust and the wind drove it through the campsite and into the trailers.
Mercifully, once the front passed us, the temperature dropped and the air calmed. The next morning was perfect flying weather and about twenty balloons lifted off. It was the highlight of the event. At the end of day, we were treated to a magnificent sunset – courtesy of smoke from the forest fires in Montana. Then that night, we were treated to a very entertaining fireworks show.
This was the first outing for my son, his wife and their two children in their new-to-them 1966 Globe Trotter. It was sink or swim in a dry camping situation but together we pulled it off and the best part is that our grandchildren all said they had a great time. I got to visit with old friends, see a really nice and very original, rare, 1961 single-axle Trade Wind and have quality time with my family. It doesn’t get much better than that.
My thanks to the hosts, Susan and Von Campbell, for all their hard work – keep your chins up you two, this rally goes down in the books as a success!