South Carolina



On Saturday afternoon, when the appointed time arrived to start the inflation, it was still fairly windy. The trees were providing some protection, but occasionally the wind would gust a bit and get through. But my main concern was with whether it would calm down enough by my planned launch time for me to leave the shelter of the trees to fly. The forecasts sounded marginal. We had a little extra time built into the schedule, so I told the inflation volunteers that we were on hold. We waited half an hour, and it seemed that the wind was decreasing a bit -- it was pretty consistently calm where we were, although we could still see the treetops waving in the breeze. Finally, unable to delay any longer, I had the volunteers start the inflation.


Images © 2008 by C. Michael Hager,



In the shelter of the trees, my colorful balloon bouquet began to blossom. Soon we were gathering my huge toys together and attaching them to me.




Images © 2008 by C. Michael Hager,



Then I had to make my way to the far end of the park where the festival actually was. My crew walked me past several baseball fields, and then in among the festival tents and the crowd.






As Larry and I had guessed, it was much windier there than it had been in the shelter of the trees where we'd inflated. My crew had to hold on tight to me while we waited for the hot-air balloon carrying the mayor of Mauldin and a cameraman to take off before me. The hot-air balloon rolled and thrashed around quite a bit in the wind before finally lifting off.



Usually, if there's enough wind to give the hot-air balloons trouble launching, I don't fly the cluster balloon --it's not as maneuverable for setting down in a small space if you're moving fast, and you'd rather be in a basket if the wind is going to drag you around at landing. However the wind was forecast to diminish, so... dum spiro spero. I had Larry move me to the north side of the field, so I'd be sure to clear the light standards on the other side. And off I went on the afternoon breeze.