by CHANEY ARNEY//Staff Writer
Not even the rain could keep the balloons on the ground and the people away.
Hundreds attended The Southwest Regional Balloon Club’s annual South Plains Balloon Round- Up on Sept. 10 and Sept. 11 at Buffalo Springs Lake. The festivities began 7 a.m. both days, with a night flight on Saturday. However, the flights were rained out Saturday morning. Despite rain cancelations on Saturday, the balloons took flight Sunday morning and lasted about an hour and a half on the west side of the west end golf course.
There were a lot of things to do, even with the weather cancelations. Many vendors came out, such as food, shaved ice, jewelry, and accessories. There were also booths with games for the kids to enjoy.
There was a Balloon Glow on Saturday night, which many people enjoy attending because of the way the fire lights up the balloons and reflects off the water. This year, there were more than 20 balloons that took part in the event, including some from New Mexico, Lubbock, and the surrounding area. Kids and adults were fascinated by the many different and beautiful balloons.
There also were a large number of people who camped out to get a front-row seat to watching the balloons take flight.
One participant, Mary Ann Slagle-Poteet, has been a balloon pilot for more than 24 years, making her one of the most experienced female pilots in the area.
“The coolest thing about flying Hot Air Balloons are the people that [she] meets,” says Slagle-Poteet.
Mary Ann and her husband, Tony Poteet, have been attending the event every year, and enjoy attending different Hot Air Balloon festivals through out the area.
Due to the wind picking up Sunday morning, not all the balloons were able to take flight. Slagle-Poteet said that the wind was a big factor in flying the balloons. Balloon pilots prefer the wind to be under 10 or 15 miles per hour. She said that they have to land with the speed of the wind.
“So if the breeze picks up, it is called a sporting landing,” she added.
Poteet and her crew said that it is much easier to pack and unpack the balloon in the daylight rather than at night. The majority of the pilots do the flying on the side as a hobby and go to many other Hot Air Balloon festivals, such as the Albuquerque Balloon Festival that happens every year.
It takes a lot of people to help unload and load the balloons. Normally, each crew has at least five people helping with the process. Once the balloons take flight, then the crew begins a chase, following the balloon to pick it up where ever it lands. To be able to fly a balloon, you need a pilot’s license, the same license you would need to fly a plane, but with a different rating.
Despite the weather issues, there is no doubt people will continue to come from all over next year to see the balloons take flight again.