A field full of giant, glowing balloons is not something you see everyday. The fourth annual Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival brought balloon enthusiasts and spectators alike flooding to High River from Sept. 21-25.

“I had to drag the balloon out of a little swamp area because we couldn’t get out of there and the winds died on us. But ever since then, I’ve been hooked,” Glenn Penner recalls from his first balloon ride.

Strong winds and clouds put a stop to the first half of the competition, but pilots were still able to set up their balloons on Sept. 23 for the Night Glow.

Glenn Penner has been ballooning for 12 years and has participated in the High River Night Glow for the past four. The pilot explains that the balloons are set up at dusk and the light from the burners makes them glow when it gets dark – like giant patio lanterns.

Once the balloons were blown up, the public came onto the field to see them up close and feel the heat of the burners.

Penner, who loves talking about ballooning and sharing his stories to the public at the event, told the story of his first time flying.

“We flew for about two hours. We emptied all the propane tanks and I had to drag the balloon out of a little swamp area because we couldn’t get out of there and the winds died on us. But ever since then, I’ve been hooked,” Penner laughs.

Video produced by Jolene Rudisuela

He adds that even though the balloons stay on the ground at the Night Glow, the weather conditions still have to be ideal to blow them up:

“In order for it to work, we actually have to have some pretty light winds. My particular balloon that I fly is about 90 ft. in the air, the top of it, so it catches the wind pretty good.”

Garry Lockyer has been a balloon meister since the late 80s, directing ballooning championships around the world, including the Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival.

As balloon meister, Lockyer stays on the ground, controls the competitions and keeps track of the wind’s “ups-and-downs.”

Even though the weather forced the cancellation of the competition flights, the winds didn’t stop visitors from enjoying the delightful glow.

BODYGary lockyerBalloon meister Garry Lockyer checks the wind speeds before the pilots can start setting up their balloons. Lockyer says balloons can be put up if the wind is anywhere below 15 km/h. Photo courtesy of Jolene Rudisuela.“We cancelled this morning due to low visibility. We couldn’t see the minimum distance required by Transport Canada,” says Lockyer and adds: “Tonight, [the wind] is too fast and it’s also very gusty but quite often, when the sun goes down, the wind goes down.”

He adds that The Night Glow is a great way to give back to the public and sponsors that have come to take in the festival.

This year, hundreds of people came to take in the event with fourteen pilots displaying their balloons. The event will be back again next year along with the hope of low winds and clear skies.


The editor responsible for this article is Ingrid Mir and can be contacted at imir@cjournal.ca

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