Watch reader Geoff Staley’s video below of pilot David Kramer firing up his torch as he gives free tethered rides to children!
DANSVILLE – A bull lazily munches in his pasture as the shadows lengthen. Birds twitter sleepy songs as they catch the last of the day’s bugs. Butterflies settle down to sleep as the flowers gently close. Just when the picture couldn’t be more perfect, a hot air balloon rises in the distance. Then another, and another. They fan out across the valley for miles and miles, and then they too and their happy passengers touch down to rest.
This is the reality that thousands of people get to live every year at and near the Dansville Festival of Balloons. The festival, now in its 35th year, draws more than two dozen big, beautiful balloons from across the country to cruise the skies of Livingston County. Many pilots say that this is one of their favorite events.
“I’ve been coming here since the ’80’s, and it’s still one of my favorite events,” said Beth Davidson of Canton, Ohio, one of the pilots for the balloon ‘Zig Zag.’ “They treat pilots like kings and queens, and the friendships I’ve made here are lifelong. When I started I’d stay in Dansville with Dick and Johanne Gillard. Now I stay with their kids, and our families go to each others’ weddings. They’re lifelong friends.”
Pilots said that on top of the Dansville community, the land and air of the Valley itself is great for flying.
“Back in Ohio, we don’t have these ‘mountains,'” said Davidson. “The winds can get tricky in the valley. If it’s too strong it will push in the sides of your balloon and you’ll never even get inflated. But if it’s calm and you get up, I mean, it’s a gorgeous view!”
The balloons pretty much have to go where the wind carries them. Pilots can perform some limited maneuvers, like purposely pulling in a side of the balloon so that it will twist away from a large objects, but once they are up it is the pilot’s job to figure out the best place to land. Their training and licensing with the FAA assists them in doing so.
Much to the delight of community children, pilot David Kramer of Glenville, NY in ‘Windrifter’ chose to land just spitting distance from Save-a-Lot in Dansville on Sept. 4 and gave free tethered rides to kids.
The Balloon Festival posted a ‘thank you’ to their Facebook page for making their 35th year a success:
“We would like to thank everyone for joining us this weekend and making our 35th year an amazing one! There are so many we are thankful for: The thousands of people who came to be a part of the festival, the wonderful vendors, local businesses & organizations, our local law enforcement & emergency personel, the local media, our classic car show organizers and participants, our balloonists and their crews as well as the musicians that entertained us.
“We would also like to extend a very special thank you to the Dansville Festival of Balloons Committee for their tireless efforts year after year to bring this amazing event to our community and Western NY as a whole. Your dedication and countless hours of work are truly appreciated. Thank you all!”