Sunday, August 6, 2017

Leftovers Day 6 -- Hot Air

Since 1973, Forest Park here in St. Louis (not to mention the skies over St. Louis) has hosted an annual hot air balloon race. I don't think it's really a competitive race, considering you're at the mercy of the winds.  It's become a fairly big event with large crowds gathering for the "balloon glow" the night before.  Apparently, in 1978, The Colonel entered the fray as is evidenced by this character glass.

As you can see, the balloon was shaped like a chicken. I think it would have been so much more interesting if it had been in the shape of The Colonel's head.

My personal connection with the race happened around 1979. My father had a large vegetable garden (about 1/2 acre) in our back yard. One summer weekend evening, I was wandering around outside (kids used to do that) when I heard a roar from above. Looking up, I saw a hot air balloon descending toward our field from around 3 stories up. The pilot looked down at me and said, "Hi, is there somewhere I can land around here?" I guess he had noticed the crops in my dad's field and didn't want to damage them. I looked up at him dumbfounded, unable to process what was happening. Fortunately, our next door neighbor was also outside and had heard him.  He directed him to a local church baseball field that was just up the street from us. As he drifted by, I began a chase underneath him, following him to the ball field. The balloon touched down gently and the balloon slowly deflated to the ground.

Telling the story now, it seems anticlimactic, but to the 12-year-old me, it was magical and the memory has stuck with me all these years.

The Great Forest Park Balloon Race takes place September 16th this year.

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