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O#14: Ashland, Ohio
OJuly 2, 2005


Ashland is located 70 miles southwest of Cleveland, in rural Ohio. A town of some 20,000 people, Ashland was once the leading center of toy balloon manufacturing in the United States. At one time over half of the world's supply of toy balloons was produced by five companies in the Ashland area. The Ashland Balloon Festival, which originally had nothing to do with manned balloon flight, was held in honor of this important local product, and featured parades, a carnival, and "twenty-four beautiful girls seeking the title of Ashland Balloon Queen". A program from one of these early festivals proclaims: "Ashland is known as the Balloon Center of the World, but has gained equal acclaim for its many cultural, industrial and educational accomplishments, its friendly spirit, its rich historical heitage, its dedication to the sound development of its youth."

Today, post-NAFTA, American workers no longer make toy balloons, and the Ashland Balloon Fest has been reinvented as a hot-air balloon rally. However, given my own flying predilections, I decided that this would be an excellent place for a helium cluster balloon flight. John Sidle, one of the Balloon Fest organizers, was kind enough to invite me to fly as part of their event in early July.

Phil and Debbie Rutan from Englewood Ohio had volunteered to be my crew chiefs for this flight. I had met them during my tour the previous summer. Phil had flown hot-air balloons for many years; it had emerged in e-mail correspondence that he was very interested in cluster ballooning, and this seemed like a safe way to satisfy his curiosity while helping me out. Debbie had been crew chief for the 18 years they were ballooning, and seemed to have the necessary knack for getting people organized to get stuff done.
Friday evening, the scheduled time of my flight, turned out to be too windy. On Saturday afternoon, however, conditions were ideal. At 4:30 PM, volunteers from the Balloon Fest as well as some of the hot-air balloon pilots and crew turned out to help inflate my balloons.


With Phil and Debbie's help, the inflation went smoothly. Soon it was time for me to get into my harness while crew attached all of my balloons.

Outside the plastic fencing, a large crowd had gathered for the balloon launch.

Terry DiLibero



I released my tie-down, and the crowd cheered as my balloon spulled me swiftly into the air.


Kathy Thompson

Terry DiLibero
Timothy Dutton


Kathy Thompson


Ohio Launch Movie (885 KB)