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O#15: Kingsport, Tennessee
OJuly 23, 2005


Kingsport, Tennessee is located in the northeastern part of the state, near the border with Virginia. The town is nestled at the foot of Bays Mountain, which is actually a very long ridge that runs off to the southwest. The nearby coutryside is very pretty, with green valleys broken by steep hills and ridges, and a scenic reservoir lake.

Kingsport is home to the gigantic Eastman chemical factory, which sits near the center of town. Munitions production and storage is another major industry.

The city is also notable for its large number of electric powerlines. Perhaps, in the glory days of the Tennessee Valley Authority and rural electrification, the theory was that "if you've got it, flaunt it" -- in any case, the city is liberally festooned with wires and wooden poles and steel towers.


Native Americans honored

Signs in downtown Kingsport

Pal's Sudden Service


Wayne Fortney

Local balloonist Wayne Fortney invited me to Kingsport to fly in their balloon rally, which is part of the city's week-long summer Fun Fest.

Wayne had arranged for the local Tri-Cities Regional Airport to sponsor my flight. The airport was engaged in an ad campaign to convince people in Kingsport and neighboring towns to take commuter flights from their facility rather than driving an hour to Knoxville or another airport. Their ads featured "Joe Frugal", a humorous character who would try various inexpensive but improbable ways to travel. My flight was billed as the "Frugal Factor" -- ignoring the fact that, between balloons and helium, cluster ballooning easily costs ten times more per flight than hot-air ballooning.

Joe Frugal attempts to fly with a leaf blower


Prior to my arrival, the airport sponsored a float in the Fun Fest parade that featured Joe Frugal attempting to fly in a lawn chair attached to some toy balloons.


Ernie Hartt went with me to Kingsport to serve as crew chief. Flying into Kingsport the morning before, it was foggy and overcast. I hoped the next morning would be clearer.