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Taking to the W.Va. skies

Balloons fill in for bigger craft at Martinsburg fest

Balloons fill in for bigger craft at Martinsburg fest

August 06, 2006|by ERIN JULIUS

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Hundreds of cars lined up Saturday afternoon along Tabler Station Road as thousands of people waited to get into the Spirit of America Over Martinsburg Balloon Festival.

Last year's air show featuring jets was popular, but the runway at Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport is under construction and an air show wasn't possible this year, event organizer Nicolas Diehl said.

"We still wanted to do something to keep up the momentum from last year," Diehl said. "People are fascinated with all different forms of aviation. Hot air balloons are a beautiful form of flight."

Diehl said he expected as many as 25,000 people to attend the Balloon Festival. The event benefits the United Way.

"I like to work with United Way. It serves tens of thousands of people in every county," Diehl said.

Groups including Boy Scouts and Musselman High School's girls basketball team sold water, food and other beverages as fundraisers.

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"We normally have our trailer out for events like this," said Tom Freeland of the Lions Club, which was cooking up hot dogs and country ham sandwiches Saturday. Their fundraising goes primarily to buy eyeglasses for the needy, Freeland said.

In the heat of the afternoon, families sat in the shade underneath nearby West Virginia Air National Guard planes on display.

A long line formed as people waited for tours of a C-130 Hercules cargo plane out of Charleston.

Keith Fletcher, a flight nurse with the West Virginia Air National Guard, said he had given tours to more than 500 people in two hours Saturday afternoon.

Nearby, the Army National Guard had a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter on display. Michael Bartin, with the Army National Guard unit, said they wanted to show people what the National Guard has to offer.

"We're on the job," he said.

Troy McMahan, with the same unit, said the Black Hawk is used to transport troops and cargo. It can carry up to 15 soldiers, he said.

Many people sat in the shade with their water.

Russell and Ronna Mason said they were waiting for the balloons to launch and Trish Arana said she took her 18-month-old daughter, Maya, to the festival so that she could see the balloons.

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