Balloons take flight over Valley

Imagine looking down on the Valley from 6,000 feet in the air.

It's a view that makes Carson Valley one of the premiere hot air ballooning spots in the world.

And the balloons are flocking to the Minden Rotary Hot Air Balloon Race, which begins this morning.

Balloon crews practiced for the two-day event Friday morning.

Allan Anderson, a pilot for the SBC balloon, has been piloting balloons for 21 years.

He used to be a skydiver and, after two jumps out of a balloon, he said he thought he would like to be in one when it landed.

The crew of seven can assemble the balloon in as little as 15 minutes, said Pat Irwin, SBC crew member and pilot.

After dragging the basket out of the back of the truck, the crew assembled a carriage for the burners.

Anderson said the burners for the SBC balloon have an output of 12 million BTU's, while most household heaters have an output of 80,000 to 120,000.

"If you placed one of these burners in the doorway of your house, they say the temperature would rise from 30 to 70 degrees in three seconds," Anderson said.

Crew chief Meaux Alden said that after the balloon had been packed away for an extended period of time several years ago, the crew ignited the burners only to find that ants had nested in the balloon.

"It was just raining flaming ants down on us," Alden said.

Once the burners are in place on top of the basket, the crew unfurls the balloon and begins inflating it with a large fan.

The SBC balloon holds 120,000 cubic feet of air, but most of the balloons at the Minden Rotary races hold about 77,000, Anderson said.

At full inflation, the SBC balloon stands eight stories tall.

The race is conducted in Hare and Hound format.

Organizers send out a "hare" balloon first, which lands at an undetermined spot.

The rest of the competitors, or the "hounds," then take off and try to land as close to where the hare landed as possible.

Judges grade the landing. The balloon that lands closest to the target wins the race.

Once in the air, the key to winning the race is by either being extremely lucky or being able to figure out the winds and how to hit the target, Anderson said.

Races will run both today and Sunday, starting at 6:30 a.m. each day at Herbig Park, across from Lampe Park on Waterloo Lane. Thirty pilots are expected to compete.

Balloons have been sponsored and the proceeds go to the Minden Rotary's Scholarship Fund.


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