Monday, May 20, 2013

Hot Air Balloon Season is Here! Allow Me to Help You...

Well it's no secret that I have a little love affair with hot air balloons.  Honestly, I don't see how you couldn't - the colors, the excitement of the launch, floating through air in utter peace and quiet - with the exception of the occasional blast of the burner, I suppose.   My experience with hot air balloons is limited - I was on a short ride in one when I was a toddler, and it was tethered to the ground, so I don't know that it counts. Other than that, my only other direct experience was last year when it became an obsession to make sure my children saw a balloon festival launch.  

Because I'm me, and I can rarely just let a fun activity be a fun activity, I did my homework and turned last year's hot air balloon launch into an educational experience.  In the weeks before the launch we read books about hot air balloons - both fiction and non-fiction, we watched youtube videos of the famous Albuquerque festival, and we watched the old Reading Rainbow episode "Hot Air Henry" where Lavar rides a hot air balloon.  (Lavar Burton and Reading Rainbow also claim spots on my Little Love Affair List.)  I thought about an experiment involving plastic bags and hair dryers... but got a little nervous when it came down to it.  Maybe I'll be brave enough this year?

We did an awful lot of preparing.  Finally, Memorial Day weekend arrived.  Friday night we let the kids sleep in their clothes, we packed the cooler full of breakfast foods, and a diaper bag full of everything else we could think of for a day trip.  Saturday morning we woke up at 3:30 (?  I can't remember if that's right), piled the sleepy kids in the car and drove an hour to the launch site.  Long story short - the 6am launch was cancelled.  Didn't they know how prepared I'd gotten my children???  Fortunately, all my planning didn't go to waste.  We found another launch that took place later in the summer and was closer to home.  We got to go...

It was an adventure that I think the kids will remember forever... Getting there even before the first balloon trucks showed up... Plopping ourselves in the wet field, having muffins and juice boxes as the morning mist lifted and the aeronauts and their crews started unrolling their balloons and prepping the burners... The sheer amazement of seeing first hand what it takes to get one of those in the air, and finally seeing dozens and dozens of them silently pass over you! 

So, if you're hoping to catch a launch yourself this Spring-Summer-Fall, and you want to turn it into a lesson, allow me to help you by sharing some resources I've uncovered...

First and foremost, locate a festival.  Here's a pretty comprehensive list of festivals nation-wide.  The one we went to last year - the one that actually took place - wasn't on the list, so there are some that don't make it here.  But this is a good place start.


Here are some of the books we used: 

ride, by Marjorie Priceman

The Amazing Air Balloon, by Jean Van Leeuwen
(a true story)

The Big Balloon Race, by Eleanor Coerr
(another true story!)

Hot Air Henry, by Mary Calhoun

Fire and Silk: Flying in a Hot Air Balloon
by Neil Johnson

Reuben and the Balloon, by Merle Good
(I just stumbled across this one recently and picked it up for $2 at a close-out store!)


Reading Rainbow, "Hot Air Henry"
(Season 1, Episode 4)
We rented it from our local library.  You can purchase it from Amazon OR I just found out, Amazon Prime members can watch it for free.  


This is a link to a diagram showing the parts of a hot air balloons.  Possible coloring page?


Here's a link to an experiment... the one we *might* try this year:


And don't forget to check youtube for movies of launches, movies taken from up in a balloon, and movies on how balloons work.  Here's an interesting one to get you started...


The launch we went to last year was a really special and memorable event for our whole family (my parents went with us!)  Dominic, in particular wonders when it will be his turn to go up.  Future hobby?  I hope so!  And I hope he takes his mom with him!


bonus materials...
artwork inspired by last year's launch
Christmas ornament I made to commemorate the event!
A couple shirts I snatched up for Ruth this Spring.  (she took the photo!)   The blue one is from Old Navy, the pink I got on CLEARANCE at Target!   I wish they had them in my size!  


  1. It's a sign of a great teacher when you can get someone who hasn't really thought twice about the subject (me) excited to possibly do this someday! What a great resource list, thank you! I did get to go up in a tethered hot air balloon on what just happened to be my 13th birthday. A balloon landed (accidentally? I'm not sure) on a street near our house and then they gave us rides! How cool is that?

    1. Mary, it's so amazing to witness! I'm sure you and your guys would love it!

  2. You are incredible Theresa!! We have read a couple of those books, but have never done any hot air ballooning. Those pictures are great.

    You could try to make the floating lanterns as an experiment. They would on the same premise. I want to make one, but am fearful I will start something on fire!


Like the old song says, "comments are a girl's best friend." Or something like that... So... leave a comment! I love chatting here! Pretend you're on my back porch, kick the broken plastic sandbox toys aside, sip your iced coffee, or beer, or (__fill in the blank with your beverage of choice__) and let's talk about all the things, because back-porch blogging is what I do!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...