Floating above the Seymour Oktoberfest


As I walked through Sunset Parkway on Saturday morning with one of my good friends, Mary Carlson, during the Seymour Oktoberfest 5K, I looked up at the blue sky and spotted hot air balloons.

They caught my eye because I knew later in the day, I would be in one of them.

Yes, in one of those small baskets lifting off from the corner of Fifth and Walnut streets as I watched the people, homes and buildings below becoming smaller and smaller.

Terrified? I wouldn’t go that far. I am not afraid to admit I started Saturday morning a little nervous. That feeling later went away and then returned the minute I parked my car near the site of liftoff. I had been up in airplanes before, but not a hot air balloon.

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As I figured out which balloon I would be traveling in, I met the crew chief, Chip Fisher, and pilot, Matt McClinton. Both are with SkyCab Balloon Promotions in Louisville, Kentucky. They manned the Kroger hot air balloon, which was one of seven in Saturday’s race as part of the Oktoberfest festivities.

I also met Darlene Hayes of Cortland, who works for Kroger and received the opportunity to take the ride, too.

Once I began talking to the three of them, my nerves vanished. I was ready to get in the basket and see what it was all about.

Well, that was one of the first issues. A tall guy trying to lift his legs up into a hot air balloon basket must have been a sight to see. Sorry for anyone who had to witness that. I hope no one got it on camera.

Anyway, as the balloon began to ascend, it was a feeling I don’t think I’ll ever forget. I think that’s as close as I’ll get to the feeling of floating on air.

So calm. So peaceful. So serene. So relaxing. Matt may have said it best: "You’re just dreaming."

As he guided us over the busy streets of the Seymour Oktoberfest, it sure was a neat perspective of the festival.

Earlier in the day and during the other two days of the festival, I made my way around to get food, play games, attend events and watch people on rides. Those times, though, I was at ground level. On Saturday afternoon, I was floating above the Seymour Oktoberfest.

As we inched higher, I found it hard to describe the feeling of seeing Seymour and the outlying areas from that perspective. I don’t know how many times I said, "Wow!" Standing in the hot air balloon basket, it was like I was high up in a building looking out windows over the city. It was so quiet and calm. It’s a feeling I will never forget.

After about 45 minutes, it was time to descend. Matt told Darlene and me to bend our knees as we headed toward the ground. I did that and also held onto whatever I could inside the basket. Fortunately, it was a safe landing. Unfortunately, that meant it was time for me to get out of the basket, which was just as awkward as getting in.

I made it, though, and I found myself running on adrenaline. It was weird having my feet on the ground again. I was like, "Did I really just do that?" It was simply amazing.

We even got to help Matt and Chip put the hot air balloon back into a bag, which was another impressive feat.

Before Matt drove us in a van back to the grass lot where it all started, he pulled up statistics on his iPad. He said we reached 3,100 feet, went 18.5 mph and traveled 3 miles in 45 minutes. Pretty cool.

When we got out of the van, Darlene said her first ride in a hot air balloon was addictive when the balloon was glowing and 100 feet in the air.

"Now, I’m 300% addicted," she said at the end.

While I would definitely go on a hot air balloon ride again, I would like to see others get the opportunity, too. Don’t be scared. Having a good pilot and crew chief helps tremendously. They certainly eased my nerves.

My experience Saturday is one I will never forget. I think I’m still floating on air.

Zach Spicer is a reporter for The Tribune. Send comments to [email protected].

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