I attended the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta this year which has grown greatly from it’s beginnings of only 13 balloons in 1972 to now over 500 balloons from across the globe. With so many balloons from so many places what were the odds of my finding two balloons and pilots that I had something in common with? As I was looking through the balloon fiesta app (there truly is an app for everything) at the names of the balloons, their pilots and where they came from, I was happily surprised to see one listed as being from my home state of Missouri. It was beyond a done deal to find him and speak with him especially after I was informed that he was from St. Louis, Missouri where I was born!
Scott Wooge is the pilot for the balloon Lindy “An ambassador of ballooning around the world that doesn’t say much but thinks ballooning is cool!” Once I introduced myself to Scott we had a few laughs about how many other pilots I had to speak with before one called him on his cell phone and was then able to tell me exactly where he was on the launch field. I learned a few ballooning facts from Scott such as the cost of a new balloon can be around $25,000 (used maybe around $8,000) and that it runs in his family. His daughter, Kimberly Magee, was also at the fiesta in her balloon Gordo. Did I happen to mention that each and every balloon has a name? They do! I had a great time hanging out with Scott and he even invited me to climb into the basket with him and let me fire up the burner once as it was sitting on the ground for the nights Special Shapes Glowdeo. A night glow is where all of the participating balloons are inflated but do not fly; their burners are fired to make them glow in the night. It is an absolutely amazing sight to see.
I was a bit taken aback though when he told me that my weight was appreciated in the basket. Come again??? Laughing he said “I bet you’ve never been told that before!” The explanation was that any weight they can use to hold the balloon in place is welcomed. Balloonist humor…
The next day I went searching for his daughter and her balloon. And by search I mean we are talking about hundreds and hundreds of balloons across an 80 acre field that was often very crowded with not only the balloons but also with their crews and vehicles and all of the visitors to the event. Thank goodness again for that balloon fiesta app! It took some walking to get from the row I started in to Gordo and Kimberly’s row but I made it. Kimberly and I did the classic St. Louis greeting of what high school did you go to and had a good chuckle from that. She not only pilots a hot air balloon but also designs them. She has been hooked on flying since she was a little girl and first flew in one with her aunt. Seems ballooning and the love of it runs deep in their family. Pretty awesome I’d say.
This year the balloon fiesta hosted a new event, the first U.S. Women’s National Championship. Kimberly came in fourth place! Way to go!