The hot air balloon is the first successful human-carrying flight technology. The first untethered manned hot air balloon flight was performed by Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes on November 21, 1783, in Paris, France, in a balloon created by the Montgolfier brothers. The first hot air balloon flown in the Americas was launched from the Walnut Street Jail in Philadelphia on January 9, 1793, by the French aeronaut Jean Pierre Blanchard. Hot air balloons that can be propelled through the air rather than simply drifting with the wind are known as thermal airships.
We have all seen and admired hot air balloons, and maybe some of us have even ridden one (this does not apply to me). Colorado Springs has hosted an annual hot air balloon celebration since 1977 at Memorial Park, and even though its survival was tenuous a few years back when the organizers of the “Colorado Balloon Classic” decided to pull out, it was resurrected as the “Colorado Springs Labor Day Lift Off” which just took place from September 3 until September 5. While not the largest nationwide event (that honor, as well as that of being the largest in the world, goes to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico which takes places each October over the course of more than a week and boasts over 500 balloons), it is the “longest-running and largest in the Rocky Mountain Region as well as in all of Colorado.”
And though we didn’t attend the Labor Day weekend festivities, and never have, which largely has to do with inertia and a dislike of large crowds with their attendant challenges, we always look forward to catching a few glimpses of the balloons after take-off. Because we live a few miles southeast of the venue, the direction into which the airships tend to travel, we often get good views of them.
This year’s calm conditions allowed the balloons to take off every day and thanks to a prolonged and seemingly interminably yard project (aren’t they all?), we were spending the mornings outside and were able to enjoy repeated appearances. I was even able to capture a few photos of some of the more whimsical representatives.
There were many more balloons with wonderful and unusual designs, and many photographers have already posted, and will continue to post, their images to the event’s website in order to participate in the local newspaper’s, The Gazette’s, Photo Contest (click here to view those submissions). When I see the pictures of the various balloon shapes and shades, of illuminated balloons at dusk, and of balloons floating above Memorial Park’s Prospect Lake, I feel slight tinges of regret about not having overcome my reservations and plunged into the festival (if not into the lake). Maybe next year.