by Ron Dobesh; photos by Mike Peterson
Itís that time of year again to prepare and complete my annual fall activities list.
Well, they did it again; the wonderful families of Wakefield have pulled off another wonderfully memorable weekend for our annual retreat to their town and homes. 16 balloonists were scheduled to arrive and partake in the event this year, but the H1N1 took out two before they could arrive, but that did not stop the show.
Four balloonists arrived by early Friday afternoon at the school to speak with the preschool through 3rd grades students. Kim Rosenboom and Tom Peterson talked and entertained the Pre-school through first graders while Matthew Grote and I (Ron Dobesh) talked with the second & third graders.
Afterwards, we proceeded to the field to the southeast of the school and joined five other balloonists who showed up in time to complete an evening flight. The nine of us flew from 30 to 60 minutes, some of us cutting our flights short due to the limited landing zones available because of most of the crops still in the fields.
After refueling we converged on the Gardner Senior Citizens Center for a Ballooning Social Event: "A Touch of Class," as it was billed. There we were once again presented with overwhelming hospitality in a setting that was both beautiful and elegant. We socialized with those in attendance till the early hours of the morning.
Saturday morning produced another opportunity for a flight, a first in 3 years, and all 14 of us, Alan Paul, Bill Clemons, Bill Smith, Brad Temeyer, Devin Burnham, Frank Urbanski, Gordon Emry, Jeremy King, John Gunderson, Kim Rosenboom, Matthew Grote, Ron Dobesh, Tom Peterson, and Wayne Mohring, flew. Balloonmeister, Wayne Mohring, chose a task of a fly in for those who wanted to complete this task. This meant that some of the pilots drove north of town to try to find a field that was open to set-up their balloons and fly into the school, drop their baggies at the target on the field at the school and then fly onto another target outside of town that Alan Paul had set down in an harvested bean field. Nine balloonists flew from the school and the remainder went north and tried to fly into the school.
At this time I am not sure how many actually made it to the school, although I did hear that one balloonist threw his baggie and it still may be on the roof of the school. Close counts in some things, but not this time! Everyone had a wonderful flight, some only 20 minutes, while others stayed up more than 2 hours.
After the morning flight and fuel there was another full day of activities to partake in, the craft fair, the car show, the balloon walk, and of course the Husker Game at Sidelines just to mention a few.
By Saturday evening the winds began picking up and gusts were pushing the opportunity to fly to the limits. Four balloons attempted take off for the evening spectators, three were successful, and the fourth gave a good attempt, but called it off when the wind got the upper hand.
Bill Clemons flew just over town and landed close to the football field on the north side of town, while Alan Paul and Wayne Mohring flew well into what seemed like South Dakota before they landed. (Actually it was close to Allen, NE).
Five balloonists who stuck around after those three darted off waited for sunset and calmer winds to set up their balloons and participate in a glow for those who stuck around to watch.
After the flights and glow we once again gathered at Sidelines to enjoy the Dave Merkel performance once again. We tried not to put on as memorable a show as last year, but a good time was had by one and all.
Mother Nature still did not want to give us our last flight Sunday Morning. As was the case last year, the winds seemed OK on the surface Sunday morning, but a low level jet at over 30 knots just off the surface was ill-advised for any attempted flight, so we all gathered to the fabulous Omelet feed in the Legion Hall.
Another wonderful year and another wonderful event has been had. I have said it before and I will probably say forever, I will always come back to Wakefield as long as they will have us. I hope that everyone there has enjoyed us being there as much as we enjoy coming. The friendships and camaraderie is second to none and you have to be the most honestly welcoming community I have ever had the pleasure of encountering.
Thank you one and all!
by Wayne Mohring
The 2008 Wakefield Balloon Rally met with its usual degree of flying success. One fun flight Friday afternoon followed by a weekend of fun and frivolity. Frivolity seems to be the operative word. Webster defines this as the quality or state of being frivolous, which is further defined as lacking in seriousness or marked by unbecoming levity. A definition for levity is a lack of steadiness. There certainly was that at the Saturday social event. If you didn't have a good time on Saturday evening, October 18, 2008, you were not in Wakefield. Fun & frivolity, need I say more? Of course; read on.
Alan Paul and the Wakefield Community Club again put forth their efforts to ensure success at what is currently Nebraska's largest hot air balloon rally. A presentation on ballooning at a grade school assembly, where the public was also invited, helped get people exited about the upcoming events. Pilots, crew and all other involved parties were invited to a Friday evening reception at the Logan Valley Golf Course following a leisurely fun flight by those who could make it before the 6:40 p.m. flying curfew. To cap off the weekend, Tom & Stephanie Peterson's faces as well as that of South Dakota pilot and NWS meteorologist Brad Temeyer are now known throughout Sioux City's tri-state television viewing area as they publicly provided their comments for the local news about the weekend's festivities and ballooning in general. (Don't forget Gary Palmer and John "Gunderman" - Editor)
A new twist to the weekend, competition flights on Saturday and Sunday planned by Balloonmeister Wayne Mohring were cancelled due to high winds. Surface winds of 15 mph or more were present on Saturday. The balloon glow Saturday evening turned into a field of fire. Baskets were positioned about a trailer's width apart from one another as Matthew Grote served as symphony conductor for the balloonist's burns to a 36 minute long music list assembled by Alan Paul and played on announcer Blair Brody's sound system. A unique experience if there ever was one and one the crowd should remember for some time.
Sunday morning seemed perfect on the surface. But 20 mph winds at 200 feet, 26 mph winds at 500 feet and 40 mph winds at 1000 feet altitude led to cancellation of a Sunday a.m. task. Wakefield has no minimum altitude waiver so there would be times when flight at those altitudes would occur. The speed and direction was such that we could have flown to a Vermillion, SD landing about an hour after take-off, long before most chase crews would have completed their 54 mile drive. By consensus, the pilots opted to stay on the ground. I suspect the real reason for cancelling was because nobody wanted to miss the free omelet feed.
You don't have to let a lack of flying force you into sitting out the weekend in a motel room. Since Wakefield has no motels, most pilots and families are paired with a host family. Many have stayed with the same host family for many years now and have developed a good relationship with the local residents. The local residents in turn get to experience the balloon "celebrities" up close and personal. Most have discovered that we're people too. A little crazy maybe, but human nonetheless.
Wakefield, population approximately 1450, goes all out on this weekend. Among other things, a craft show, volunteer fire department BBQ pork feed and evening entertainment at Sidelines, a local bar and eatery, ensured there were plenty of things to do to suit all tastes. In response, balloonists from Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska find themselves flocking back to this rally year after year. If small-town fun is your bag, this is the place for you.
by Ron Dobesh
Our only flight was Friday night with 12 of the participating balloons flying. Jim Gunhus in "Yellowbird" was the first one to leave the field a little before 5:30 and the last one off was Wayne Mohring in "Wild Goose" close to 6:00. Winds were forecast to die down closer to sunset, but at 5:00 when the pilot's meeting happened, the winds had not. That was when the radio station was called and informed that it did not look promising for a flight. At 5:20 the winds dropped and we all jumped into our vehicles and pulled onto the field and quickly pulled everything out and away we went. Winds were close to 10 mph at take-off, but calmed down to a gentle 4.5 mph landing 45 minutes later.
Fog and higher winds prevented any further flights the whole weekend, but did not dampen anyone's spirits or enthusiasm about the whole event. Saturday morning's flight was called at the 7:00 AM pilot's meeting and we dispersed to pick up our pilot's packets and eat breakfast at the bowling alley or rolls and coffee at the Legion Hall. Trips to the Museum, the craft fair and demonstrations in the school gym came next. We proceeded to ride on the antique fire truck before adjourning to Sidelines to watch the Nebraska - Iowa State football game. I have to apologize if our excitement startled some there, at one point during the second quarter we were approached by someone in the bar and asked if we were the group from Omaha; must have been too loud and cheerful. After the game we joined the rest of Wakefield at the pork feed at the fire station. I had never had pulled pork with saurkraut, but I have to tell you it was REALLY good! We returned to the school around 5:30 to start setting up for the Ring of Fire. To our knowledge, it was the first time anyone has tried to synchronize the burner blasts to music! We had a 36 + minute display before we disassembled our equipment and returned to Roses' where the Sapp Bros. propane truck was waiting for us to refuel. We then returned to the Sidelines for the rest of the evening where another entertaining time was had by one and all. At one point I was approached by a local resident who informed me he was sorry that it was time for him to leave and that we had provided entertainment for the community to reflect upon for months to come.
Sunday morning's winds were calmer at the surface, but just 500 feet above the surface the winds were in excess of 26 mph. The flight was cancelled, but we did set up one balloon for the Channel 4 television crew that came to town. As is customary for this wonderful town, the omelet feed at the Legion Hall was fabulous. After saying our farewells we dispersed and went our separate ways till next year, when myself and my family are already looking forward to returning.
Pilots(l-r): Kim Rosenboom, Jeff Reid, Wayne Mohring, Brad Temeyer, Gary Palmer, Bill Smith, Bill Clemons, Jim Gunhus, Alan Paul, Tom Peterson, Frank Urbanski, Gordon Emry, John Gunderson, Ron Dobesh, Matthew Grote.
Of the sixteen balloons that were scheduled to be there this weekend, 9 are Nebraska Balloon Club members. Four of the balloonists here this weekend were from South Dakota, 5 from Iowa, and the remaining 7 from Nebraska. The event has a very large draw, given the size of the community and the fact that it is all done with little to no corporate sponsorship. Every person in Wakefield pours their hearts out to welcome us and make us all feel at home. As was stated by someone at breakfast Sunday morning, it is like going to Grandma's house, that is how welcome we feel in Wakefield's homes and hearts, and that is why I promise to return as long as they will have us!
Following Stories courtesy of Brad Kurtenbach, the Wakefield Republican
Balloonists from Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota gathered in Wakefield for the Fifth Annual Balloon Festival which took place here over the mid-October weekend. As always, the fate of the festival was in the hands of Mother Nature, and this year was no different, as only one launch occurred Friday evening. Last year, rains dampened the weekend, with the only launch taking place on Friday night as well.
12 balloons left the field just south of the school around 5:30 p.m. A wind near 10 miles per hour at launch time carried the balloons to the South. Pilots and crews scurried to the launch site after the winds dropped around 5:20 p.m. A slight shortage of crews made the launch nip-and-tuck at times.
Piloted by Jim Gunhus, "Yellowbird" was the first to lift off. Last to go was Wayne Mohring in "Wild Goose" near 6 p.m. Winds calmed to less than five mph at landing time 45 minutes later just before sunset.
Earlier in the day, six of the balloonists entertained kindergarten through sixth graders in an assembly at the school gym at 2:30 p.m. A short movie was shown and a question-answer period with the students took place with balloonists Tom Peterson and Matthew Grote sharing duties as emcees.
Friday concluded with a ham and fish feed at the Logan Valley Golf Course clubhouse for 70 people, including the balloonists.
Fog and wind hampered the launch on Saturday morning and high winds put a hold on the evening flight, although the balloonists entertained a sizeable crowd with their synchronized display of burner blasts to music which began at sundown. Breakfast was provided at the Wakefield Bowl in the morning and rolls and coffee were available at the Legion Hall. Both Graves and the Depot Museums were open on Saturday to balloon festival visitors. Local businesses were open on Main Street displaying orange balloons during their special promotion.
The craft fair at the school was well-attended throughout the day." Various vendors displayed their wares and other special events took place.
In celebration of their 100th Anniversary, Wakefieldís Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue put on a free pork feed with sauerkraut at the fire hall in which 475 folks enjoyed. The vintage 1936 fire truck provided rides for many which began at the school grounds.
After the choreographed 36-minute night display Saturday, a well-attended dance with live music was held at Sidelines Bar and Grille. The Wakefield Bowl hosted a teen dance at the skating rink.
On Sunday morning, the wind was deceivingly calm on the surface. "Surface winds were too strong to fly," said balloonist-meteorologist Brad Temeyer, "High Hopes," of Sioux Falls, SD. "Winds at 1,000 feet were moving at 40 m.p.h." Any chance for a final flight had to be scrubbed.
An omelet feed attended by 275 people which was sponsored by Michael Foods was held at the Legion Hall Sunday morning, wrapping up another fine weekend of activities.
The balloonists wanted to convey their appreciation to the host families, citizens and businesses of Wakefield for generously hosting the event. It appears that is one of the reasons they keep coming back.
As Ron Dobesh, pilot of "Blue Taz" put it: "At one point, I was approached by a local resident who informed me he was sorry that it was time for him to leave and that we (the balloonists), had provided entertainment for the community to reflect upon for months to come."
Dobesh went on to say, "Every person in Wakefield pours their hearts out to welcome us and make us all feel at home. As was stated by someone at breakfast this morning (at the Legion Hall), it is like going to garndmaís house. It is how welcome we felt in your homes and hearts, and that is why I promise to return as long as you will have us."
Our thanks go out to the balloonists for once again providing the community with many wonderful memories and hope to see them make their return next year. Thanks go out to the Community Club for sponsoring the event.
On Friday afternoon, six balloonists entertained students from kindergarten through sixth grade in the gym at Wakefield School.
Balloonists, balloon names: Gary Palmer, "Hobbit;" Kim Rosenboom, "Foofaraw;" Alan Paul, "Cloud Hopper II;" Tom Peterson, "Dreamtime;" Ron Dobesh, "Blue Taz" and Matthew Grote, "Jester Unwindz" gave a nice presentation about the art of ballooning. A short movie was shown.
Before the balloonists made their trip to Wakefield for the festival, Peterson said they contacted the kids at school through e-mail. The balloonists then talked with the kids about ballooning in their classrooms when they arrived. At the assembly, they told the kids about how a balloon works, how large it is and then answered a few questions from the attentive students.
For example, a balloon is about 70 feet tall, 40-50 feet wide and holds the equivalent air of about 70,000 to 90,000 basketballs.
Tom Peterson told the crowd the best times to fly is right at sunrise and at sunset. "During mid-day, the wind becomes a problem," he said.
Matthew Grote also talked to the elementary students and emceed a question-answer session.
One of the third graders asked how long you can fly in a balloon. "One to one and one-fourth hours," answered Grote. How high can you fly? "The FAA says up to 12,500 feet above sea level." Beyond that, you need oxygen.
A fourth grader asked how long does it take to inflate a balloon. "Less than 10 minutes, under 20 minutes." How many balloons are there in Wakefield? "15, but in Albuquerque, NM, there were 750."
A fifth grader asked how many people does it take to set up a balloon? Three to four, Grote said.
Can you land on a highway? "As long as there is no traffic, we like to land in the ditch."
A sixth grader asked, what was your longest balloon trip? "One time," Grote said, "from North Dakota to Wisconsin overnight."
A kindergartener asked the final question, how do you get down from a balloon, "very carefully."
"Once you have flown you will walk the Earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you long to return..." Leonardo DaVinci
Going up in a balloon for the first time is indescribable. Jim Lunz of rural Wakefield and myself were fortunate to be able to ride with Brad Temeyer in his balloon "High Hopes" Friday evening. What follows are some thoughts about going up for the first time.
Balloon pilot Brad Temeyer of Sioux Falls, SD, is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. Brad took his first balloon ride when he was seven. It was a birthday gift from his grandparents. His first time up was a "tether ride" where the balloon rises 15-20 feet. It was tethered to a chase vehicle which kept it going anywhere. He was five years old.
Brad says there are several things he enjoys about ballooning and calls it a "rush."
"It is a very social sport allowing you the opportunity to meet people from all around the country and all around the world," he said. You can fly competitively or "just for fun."
I think the balloon gods must have been looking down on me Friday as I found myself in a position with camera in hand to give Brad a little assistance since he didnít have a crew to help launch. For that matter, neither did he have a chase crew to follow and meet at the landing site. There were folks at the site, including Jim Lunz and his wife Lisa, Rita Schrock and others who helped Brad get his balloon in the air. It took about 10 minutes to ready the balloon for launch.
First of all, the gondola or basket, which weighs about 400 pounds was unloaded from the trailer.v The balloon was laid out on the ground. A frame which holds the propane burner was clamped to the basket which attaches to the lines that hold the balloon. Two propane tanks were secured inside the basket.
Matthew Grote inflating "Jester Unwindz."
Air was blown into the balloon. Jim and I manned the cord which was attached to the top of the balloon while the balloon was inflated, so to speak. When the burner ignites, hot air rises to the top of the balloon causing lift.
The air warms up to the point where the balloon ultimately rises. At that time, Brad signaled us to drop the cord and get into the basket. And then youíre off.
You rise rapidly off the ground as the pilot ignites the burner. In a matter of seconds you gain altitude as you look down at the people on the ground turning into ants. The world below spreads out giving you a totally new perspective of the world below.
When you are in the air, you slowly drift with the wind. You donít feel the wind. It is very quiet, except for the occasional sound of the burner. Combines in the fields and cars on the highway look like toys.
"I was amazed at how peaceful and calm it was for myself, being afraid of heights," Jim said. "Looking down that slow was amazing. I never dreamed it would be like that."
Barb Stout and daughter Becky went up their first time Friday with Bill Smith in "The Condor."
Barb had duties at the food trailer but said she really wanted to go up. "I left my mother Coreen (Bard) in the food trailer to serve food and away we went," Barb quipped. "Becky loved it (flying)."
Barbís husband Jim, who made his first flight two years ago, joined the chase crew for their flight and helped out with the launch and landing seven miles South of town. Two years ago, Jim made his first flight. "I donít like heights," Jim said, "but with ballooning, there is no sensation of heights."
Barb added, "I couldnít believe how quiet and peaceful it was. I figured it would be windy up there, but it wasnít. It was gorgeous looking at the area where I lived my whole life. It gave me a different perspective."
For virgin flier Sid Preston, he said heís ready to go up again. "I loved it. It was a great ride. I donít like heights. I had no fear at all."
Sid rode with pilot John Gunderson in his balloon, "High Twelve" joining Nick Curnyn in his first flight also.
Sid said they landed northwest of the MPM Dairy. "It was a beautiful view of the center pivots and the tracks," he said.
Pilot Brad Temeyer likes contour flying. Contour flying is where you follow the lay of the land close to the ground. We skimmed the tassels of a cornfield. It was so quiet you could hear the "swish" of the tassels on the bottom of the basket. I grabbed a couple tassels just for the fun of it.
Being that close to the earth was amazing. Just looking down the corn rows, spotting a rabbit running down the row made you feel as if you were touching the earth. For me, it was a whole new way of looking at the planet up close and personal.
To the best of Bradís recollection, we went up to around 1,000 feet above ground level. We were in the air for around 45 minutes and landed about five miles South of town. Brad maneuvered the balloon near the spot where pilot Tom Peterson landed his balloon, "Dreamtime" with two female first-time fliers. Tomís wife Stephanie was on the chase crew giving her whole-hearted support. It was neat having the group help us out with closing the flight as there is a lot of work involved.
A ritual was held for the four of us first-time fliers which involved a christening of champagne and the recital of a little balloon history dating back to the early days of ballooning in France by the outspoken "guru" of ballooning Tom. Jim and I were so far up on "cloud nine" at the time, we still have trouble recollecting exactly what Tom said, but it was something to behold.
Brad Temeyer calls his love of ballooning an "addiction." It definitely got in my blood, too, and it is something I long to someday do again, if the balloon gods allow it to happen.
Jim Lunz echoed my thoughts. "I wish I could do it again, to next time really enjoy the take off. It was enjoyable to the end," he said.
October 20, 2008
Another Wakefield Balloon Rally is in the record books! As usual, we managed to get the Friday flight off the ground but Ma Nature wouldn't let us go out and play the rest of the weekend. At least, not the way we intended. I was watching the weather the previous weekend (October 10 - 12) and had we held the rally then I think the result would have been the same. Friday was OK but low ceilings on Saturday with constant threat of rain would have prevented us from launching and Sunday was too windy.
On behalf of all the balloon pilots, special thanks to Alan Paul and the Wakefield Community Club for all the work they did preparing for the weekend. Thanks also to Matthew Grote for an impromptu stint at coordinating the field of fire Saturday night. I think the crowd thoroughly enjoyed the "glow" and appreciated Matthew letting his medication wear off for a few hours. The social events will likely also be long remembered by the local citizenry, although I think there may be a few participants that will claim to have no recollection of events reported by others.
2008 Wakefield Balloonmeister
Taking time out for a group photo were the 15 balloonists who participated at the festival. Pilots, balloon names and their home towns include, front row, from left, Jeff Reid, "The Blue Olive," Omaha, NE; Brad Temeyer, "High Hopes," Sioux Falls, SD; Bill Smith, "Condor II," Storm Lake, IA; Jim Gunhus, "Yellow Bird," Omaha, NE; Alan Paul, "Cloud Hopper II," Glenwood, IA.; Frank Urbanski, "Integrity 3," Dakota Dunes, SD; John Gunderson, "High Twelve," Irene, SD and Ron Dobesh, "Blue Taz," Papillion, NE.
Back row, Kim Rosenboom, "Foofaraw," Lemars, IA; Wayne Mohring, "The Wild Goose," Norfolk, NE; Gary Palmer, "Hobbit," Yankton, SD; Bill Clemons, "Color My World," Des Moines, IA; Tom Peterson, "Dreamtime," Omaha, NE; Gordon Emry, "Fresh Aire III," Norfolk, NE and Matthew Grote, "Jester Unwindz," Omaha, NE. Photo courtesy of Kent Dinkleman