My daughter Marissa and I spent our Father’s Day weekend, amused and totally entertained watching the more than a dozen hot air balloons soaring above the sky at the Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Festival held at the Kaiser Community Park in the town of Windsor, California and sponsored by the Rotary Club of Windsor.
Story has it that in 1998, “Windsor was a struggling, newly-incorporated town, looking for a great event that will attract people from all over Sonoma County, or maybe even the Bay Area.” And so, the officers and members of the Rotary Club of Windsor developed and incorporated their non-profit organization, to enable their group to take on the name to promote the annual event.
“During the first couple of years, they didn’t make any money and it was only through some very tenacious people in the town of Windsor that the event survived. And, it did survive most importantly because it was a completely voluntary-run event, designed as a spectacular special event and fundraiser.”
My daughter Marissa and I have also learned that the volunteers came from all over California and some from out of state. We spoke with some of the volunteers who claimed that they were there to help out because they know the proceeds are intended for Windsor’s “very special non-profit organizations, as well as for the educational needs in their town and the whole of Sonoma County” and most of all, some volunteers were there to help and support because “they just love the event.”
Marissa and I left San Mateo at 3:00 am in order to make it to the 5:00 am Dawn Patrol Tether Rides (for kids) and the launch of the almost 30 specially-equipped hot air balloons scheduled to ascend before sunrise. The balloons were all choreographed to music, and simultaneously, “ they produce a spectacular sight as they light up the skies, with a multi-colored glow.” The way the balloons light up, seven stories high, they shine in the dark by “igniting raw, non-pre-heated propane” and this is accomplished by using a pre-equipped “fire-two” valve.
“Each balloon must be equipped with battery-operated lights which are suspended from the basket. Dawn Patrol balloonists may not take off any earlier than two hours before sunrise.”
The spectacular view of the hot air balloons lit up the sky one at a time including a few cartoon character balloons for the kids. Some of them were: Angry Bird (Pilot: Frank Wechster); Pencil Boy (Pilot: Jay Schuler; Puddy Cat ( Pilot: Charles Edwards); Spunky, The Skunk (Pilot: John Calvin); Yellow Bird (Pilot Will LaPointe); Purple People Eater (Pilot: Charles Edwards); Asses Aloft (Pilot: Gary Michalek); Bob’s Cat (Pilot: Justin Kinsinger); Coyote Moon )Pilot: Greg Taggart); Day Dreamer II (Pilot: Armand O’Connor); Dream Weaver (Pilot: Michael Kijak); Freedom II (Pilot: James Gibson); Kiphaven (Pilot: James Abel); L’Escalier (Pilot: Larry Seiler); Magic Moments VI (Pilot: Peter Pierre); Mariposa II (Pilot: Don Heisig); Morning Glory (Pilot: Jun Marshall); Shadowdancer II (Pilot; Gale Mott); Sonoma Star (Pilot: Jimmy Long); Free Spirit (Pilot: Dana Thornton); Wanderer (Pilot Gay James); Sundance (Pilot: Charles Edwards) and ReMax (Pilot: David Wakefield).:
Though a group of us have attended the Temecula Valley Hot Air Balloon Festival, a couple of years back, this Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic is one we will look forward to go to again next year. Feel free to log on to the Windsor Rotary Club’s website for their future events: www.windsorrotary.org.