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Spectators, high fliers enjoy balloon festival

July 31, 2010|By DANA BROWN
  • Balloonists take flight Friday night during the Balloon Festival at Green Grove Gardens near Greencastle, Pa.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer,

GREENCASTLE, Pa. -- As the winds died down Friday night at Green Grove Gardens in Greencastle, spirits were raised high -- some literally right off the ground.

Lois and John Lehman of Waynesboro, Pa., grinned and waved to family members as they gently were lifted into the sky aboard one of the 13 brightly colored hot air balloons featured at the events center's inaugural three-day balloon festival.

As their balloon rose slowly from the ground, the Lehmans' family and spectators applauded.

The balloon ride was a birthday gift to Lois from her family to celebrate her 70th birthday.

"I'm excited," Lois said prior to liftoff. It was her first experience "just floating along," she said.

Noel Lehman said her mother has been interested in balloons ever since one landed on the Lehmans' farm 30 years ago. She said she and her siblings decided it was "high time" their mother went up in one. She planned to join the chase crew to track her parents' journey and meet them when they landed.

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Windy conditions kept the balloons grounded past the planned 6 p.m. launch Friday. Balloonmeister David Robinson said sunrise and sunset are the best times for balloon flights, when the Earth cools and the wind dies down.

Robinson briefed pilots on weather conditions as part of their preflight preparation.

Passengers paid $175 each for the chance to ride along in, what Robinson called, "80-foot sailboats."

Lois Henneberger, 89, of Greencastle, was set to take her second balloon flight. The first one, years before, was too short, she said. For this trip, she brought snacks and water. But she admitted it was the celebratory glass of champagne she would share with her balloonist at the end of her flight that she was looking forward to.

Passengers waited patiently as flight time neared. For several, it was something worth waiting for.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing," Blair McKim of Shippensburg, Pa., said before he and Donna Grill, also of Shippensburg, prepared to launch.

David Pittman expressed his hesitation about flying.

"I really didn't want to go. She talked me into it," he said as he nodded toward his wife, Tina.

Flying is something she has been dreaming about, she said.

"Gonna do it now," she said.

Keith McCleaf, operations manager of Green Grove Gardens, said he was pleased with the turnout Friday, but was unsure of the number of spectators attending. The balloon show was the first big outdoor event for the events center, he said.

"Hopefully, people are seeing something they have never seen before," McCleaf said.

Spectators gathered around as hot air seemingly brought the balloons to life. One by one, they rose above the crowd, the slight wind carrying them southeast of the events center.

"It's really beautiful," said Teresa Rainey of Greencastle.

Rainey and her three children watched as the large balloons became dots on the horizon.

"Bye bye, balloons," 5-year-old Anthony Rainey said as he waved. "Bye bye."

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