May 27-30, Memorial Day Weekend, at Fleming Loop Field in Fuquay-Varina, NC 33 Pilots and crews held the second Freedom Balloon fest in the Raleigh area. Created and put into production By Brian Hoyle, Mandy Hoyle, and Tom Lattin a great event was assembled. Balloon logistics were professionally and smoothly run by Sam Parks, Ken Draughn, Henry Rosenbaum, Roger Clark, Robert Wise and Rob Mullis.
A key to the success of the event was support by the town of Fuquay-Varina and the early start of balloon activities. Sponsor and media flights generated a buzz with flights and tethers in the week leading up to the event. Large crowds assembled Friday and Saturday nights. Weather cooperated for a mass ascension Friday night, a fun competitive fly-in Saturday morning, with three tasks and a pole ring drop, and a glow Saturday night. The wind field and storms from Tropical storm Bonnie moved in cancelling Sunday and Monday flights.
From a participating pilots perspective the event was outstanding because they returned the registration fee, cut us a check re-compensating us for travel expenses, and sold rides for $300.00 with the event not taking a cut. The area was good for flying with the exception of one direction, a nuclear power plant. Of course the wind direction Saturday eve was right at the power plant. Two balloons did get off, Mark MacSkimming carried the flag out and CBA president Richard Parr expertly demonstrated why the rest of us stayed on the ground.
The competition was not an emphasis of the event but Paul Dale was on his game winning two of the three tasks and second in the third. Nice flying by Paul is his phat balloon. Rick Ferrall won second, and Buddy Carter won third. Good steerage and a gentle breeze made for a fun morning of balloon racing.