Up, up, away

The annual hot air balloon festival kicks off in Plano, Texas

Story by Mikayla Zverina, staff writer

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On Sept. 21, Oak Point Park hosted the annual Plano Hot Air Balloon Festival to celebrate 40 years of ballooning. People from all around came to this event for food, entertainment, games and the glow of the hot air balloons. Although the actual balloons weren’t able to be assembled due to high wind speeds, there was a show of the flames synchronized to many well-known tunes. 

The band “Moving Colors” performed covers of songs from different genres to encourage everyone to have a good time. The masses tended to gravitate towards the stage as everyone enjoyed the music. Whether they two-stepped or were dragged out by a new friend, everyone was out on the dance floor having a blast. 

“I definitely love the music,” first time festival attendee Rachel Clark said. “It is so much fun to just get out there and dance.”  

Although some aspects of ballooning have changed throughout the years, such as technology, many balloonists continue to attend. The family of balloonists have become closer as they travel all over the country to participate in events.

“With all the technology we know a whole lot more. We used to kind of guess what [the weather] was doing,” balloonist since 1988, Mary Ann Hawkins said. “The camaraderie of the balloonists and the crew is like one big, happy family. Everybody knows everybody. We have a group of us that used to go to Albuquerque. We nicknamed ourselves the Tex Pack because we are all from Texas and would go every year.”

Adults from all over try and inspire their children to volunteer to not only make a difference, but to enjoy themselves while doing it. Many people encourage their students to volunteer at this event because the future generations and this festival are dear to their hearts. 

“ I love volunteering to our community especially because I came from an orphanage,” 27th year volunteer, Roxie Glatz said. “I have my daughter volunteering for ten years and my son in law for eight years. Yesterday, we [had a group of] 12. We wanted to do something fun to encourage the kids to do something fun and to stay out of trouble.” 

One of the best parts of the festival is all of the different people it attracts. There are people who come together from multiple different backgrounds and continue to keep coming back for more. The welcoming and nonjudgmental atmosphere of the festival is what draws them in.

“It means a lot when you see happy faces and see people excited, it’s like we are united,” Glatz said. “We [don’t] see color. We [don’t] see anything, and I love to see happy people all the time. For me, this means love.”

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