Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hot Air Balloon Festival

Ooohhhh.... So pretty!

I had no idea that there was a Hot Air Balloon Festival down at Nasa until now. It was beautiful. The campus, the weather, and the balloons! :) We drove down Saturday afternoon not really knowing what to expect. I knew the big balloon launch was supposed to be in the morning at the crack of dawn or close enough that it wouldn't really have been practical for us to get the boys up, ready, and down there in time to see it. So we planned to go late afternoon in the hopes that we would at least see a few balloons in the air, and if not at least we would be there for the balloon glow which was rumored to be pretty neat on it's own.

When we got there we had to park about as far away from the action as I think it is humanly possible to get. We were literally all the way across the campus. But it was a beautiful day, and a beautiful campus so I couldn't complain too much. Not to mention that we had no sooner gotten out of the car before we saw the first wave of what would be several rounds of skydivers.

We had packed the boys up in the car practically the second they woke up from their nap so while Kevin loaded up the stroller for the hike I took the boys across the road into a grassy area to let them run off some energy before we tried to coop them up again in the stroller for the trek. They had fun chasing each other and me around. Kevin took over while I went back to the car to double check and make sure we got everything. Unfortunately, while I was gone Ryan got into some fireants. He got probably a dozen bites on his little hand. Poor guy. Surprisingly after the first minute or two of the get them off of me phase he didn't even complain. And boy do they hurt when they sting. I think some at least were suicidal and jumping out of the trees on unsuspecting bystanders because I got a few bites of my own.

As we made our way towards the launch and landing area we wandered past several Nasa open house exhibits including a pretty cool looking vehicle of some sort. Then as we neared the balloon area we saw more skydivers. We got there just as the second round was touching down practically close enough to touch. We then wandered around the carnival like area seeing the sites while periodically rockets launched nosily behind us. Everyone would turn and watch for a moment and once the rocket started back down they go back to whatever they were doing. After a while we set the boys free of the stroller and tried out their backpack tethers for the first time. Connor was a great sport about it and didn't mind at all. In fact I think he enjoyed the feel of freedom, and I was thankful that he couldn't dart off into the mass of people and get lost. Ryan protested for a minute or two - I think it scared him the first time he looked back and saw the monkey on his back. :) But after a few minutes he was chomping at the bit to run monkey or no.

Meanwhile in the action zone they were preparing to launch some sort of propelled parachutes for lack of a proper name. So we spread our blanket out and sat down to enjoy some snacks and the show.

As they were finishing up a single balloon was fired up and lifted off.

We didn't have to wonder what was next for long. In fact we were some of the first people to spot the balloons rising up over the buildings behind us. At first just one, then before long, 2, and 3. And they just kept coming. We saw at least a dozen balloons appear over the tops of the buildings heading our way to drop beanbags of some sort into the field just in front of us.

Two even flew right over the top of us. It was really kinda neat to be so close and to be able to see up into the ballon as it passed over head.

And to be able to see the pilots as they lined up to drop their streamered bean bags into the target zones.

Kevin and Ryan had gone off to get us an early dinner and some drinks just before the balloons appeared so Connor and I decided since we didn't have to wait in the line that the least we could do was get a picture of some of the ballons for Kevin. Of course this was his favorite:

As we enjoyed our dinner two more balloons magically appeared, inflated, and took off just before sunset. Just as they vanished out of sight we could see the first of the parachutes opening over head. Several rounds of sky divers parachuted down just as the sun was beginning to set.

The boys were getting a little restless so we let them run around for a while. After the sun had set and the boys had tuckered themselves out and were beginning to yawn and rub their eyes we put them in the stroller and took them for a short walk before returning back to the field to wait for the glow. By the time we got back Connor was asleep cuddling with his monkey under the blanket and Ryan's little eyes were drooping as he fought to stay awake. A few minutes later he too drifted off.
Before long the balloons began to inflate and the glow started. It was beautiful to see so many balloons inflated and lit up at the same time.

It was truly beautiful. I am so glad we went. The weather was perfect and we had such a great afternoon outside watching the festivities. We will definitely have to add this to our list of things to do again next year.

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