ALBANY, Ore. — Early in the morning, as the sun is rising, hundreds flock to Timber Linn Park in Albany to watch 30 hot air balloons take to sky, kicking off the Northwest Art and Air Show.
Many of the balloons are seven stories tall and six stories wide, and when filled with air they take off.
Balloon handlers had their hands full keeping balloons on the ground.
As with any balloon launch, weather is key. The primary factor on Friday was the wind.
“The real factor is the winds up above, which is called the winds aloft,” said balloonmeister Chris Whitfield. “What happens is that an hour after sunrise, the speed of the winds aloft comes down to the ground, so we are expecting it to get worse and worse as the morning goes on.”
That makes for unsafe landing conditions especially with passengers. If you looked at the American flag, you can see and hear the wind blow.
Using an instrument, pilot Brann Smith learned that the wind was too strong Friday morning. That day’s launch was called off.
Smith attends about 12 balloon festivals every year.
“You’ll go to a three-day event, one of those days you’ll be winded out,” said Smith said.
“That’s ballooning. You come out you give it a try. Sometimes you just have to wait until the next day. Tomorrow the forecast looks much better and we are hoping to have a good flight tomorrow,” Whitfield said.
Saturday morning at the crack of dawn, they’ll be back giving it another shot.
The festival continues Friday with the balloon glow, and on Saturday Styx is performing at the Oregon Amphitheater.