There were many festivities at the second annual Balloons at the Park event on Saturday.



It was a vivid display Saturday as hot air balloons swelled, lifted and floated up, up and away.


There were many festivities at the second annual Balloons at the Park event on Saturday.

It was a vivid display Saturday as hot air balloons swelled, lifted and floated up, up and away.

One of the 34 pilots, Mike Boylan of Washington, entered his 77,000 cubic foot balloon, “Wild Rover,” into the competition.

There was a $100 entry fee, said Boylan. However, pilots who place last to 11 in the flight automatically receive a $100 refund. Those who finished higher in the competition were awarded larger amounts, with the first-place prize being $2,000.

Aside from ballooning, Boylan works as a computer technician for Keystone Corp. in Bartonville, according to Buck Buckingham, a member of Boylan’s chase crew.

Yes, much of the excitement is happening 1,000 feet in the air, seemingly a world away. And apart from the occasional echoes of a barking dog, the air is still and peaceful.

Peering out, the patchwork of fields and trees that resemble a forest of broccoli make for a canvas that would leave Henry David Thoreau smiling.

Back on mere ground, however, a key element to the ballooning experience winds its way along country roads, following the bright balloon in the skies above. The chase crew will frequently call the pilot using two-way radios to ensure that the flight is going smoothly. As for any pilot, the crew becomes very important not only for pre-flight prep but also for landing and packing up.

Boylan’s eight crew members, one of which is his grandson, are crucial in order to make ballooning the tradition that it is.

For every first-time aeronaut, or balloon rider, Boylan and his crew celebrate by popping a bottle of sparkling wine at the end of each ride.

The newly inducted must also kneel facing the east — the direction of France where two brothers invented the first hot air balloon — and recite the balloonists’ prayer.