By Autumn Bippert
There’s no need to travel all the way to the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival to witness hot air balloons in flight.
Buffalo Springs Lake hosted its annual South Plains Balloon Round-Up on Sept. 7 and Sept. 8.
The balloon lift-off was held at 7 a.m. with the sunrise. Seven hot air balloons took off from in front of the lake on both mornings. A night event was held at 8 p.m. on Saturday, featuring glowing hot air balloons.
Betty Brown, Buffalo Springs Lake crew member, said that the Balloon Round-Up has been around for 15 years, and that the idea to start the Round-Up came from the Albuquerque International Balloon Rally.
Brandon Powell, general manager for Buffalo Springs Lake, said that the Balloon Round-Up has drawn more people to the event each year.
“Anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 roughly (attend), and that’s for each event,” Powell explained.
Powell explained that the Saturday morning event normally draws the biggest number of attendees.
Hundreds of people pulled up before dawn on Saturday to watch the hot air balloons take off. For some, it was the first time seeing a hot air balloon.
Among those is attendance was Angela Jones from Lubbock, who said that her family and her were excited to see the hot air balloons for the first time and it was a great activity to do with her kids.
Others have been attending the Balloon Round-Up for years.
“ My husband and I come here every year to camp, and we stay to see the balloons too,” said Janis Armour of Lubbock. “It is something fun to do around Lubbock. We like to come to watch them blow up the balloons, and they are so pretty. ”
Hot air balloon rides were not open to the public. However, pilot Glen Cambel had his hot air balloon tethered to the ground and took attendees up and down in the balloon.
Brown explained that the hot air balloons at the event were all from Texas, with one pilot from Amarillo, another from Corpus Christi and the rest from Lubbock.
The overall success of the event is highly dependent upon the weather, which means if the conditions weren’t right, the hot air balloons would not take off.
“We need fairly calm winds to launch,” explains Brown. “Otherwise the (hot air balloon) envelope will rock like crazy and it would be unsafe to launch it. Once you’re up in the air, the winds, they’ll carry you. You just go with the winds. But the closer you get to the ground, the more calm you need them.”
The hot air balloon envelope, which is the bag holding in the air, uses heated air that’s created by an open flame caused by burning liquid propane. The heated air inside the envelope makes it buoyant, since it has a lower density than the colder air outside the envelope.
The envelope does not have to be sealed at the bottom, since the air inside the envelope there is at about the same pressure as the surrounding air. In modern sport balloons, the envelope is generally made from nylon fabric, while the inlet of the balloon, which is closest to the burner flame, is made from a fire resistant material such as Nomex.
There was more than just watching hot air balloons to do during the weekend at Buffalo Springs. There were also food trucks and inflatable bounce houses at the Round-Up.
“We’re on a lake,” Powell said. “You can go fishing, or camping out here. We do have a bunch of vendors scattered throughout the lake (for the event). But for the kids there this morning we had a movie playing. We had ‘Up.’ Then we’ve got the jumpers as well, and we do have little playground areas. There’s a lot for them to do. It’s just getting them out here and doing it.”
Powell explained that there were 15 vendors around the lake for the weekend.
“Last year, we had a little less,” Powell continued. “So hopefully with the more balloons we have next year, we’ll have more vendors.”