Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

CNHI/SE Iowa

June 24, 2013

View from the ground

OTTUMWA -- Pilot and passengers say the view out of a hot air balloon can be spectacular from the air. But veteran chase-car drivers will tell you that they've seen some interesting things on the ground, too.

At the 36th Annual Ottumwa Pro Balloon Races, most views this year had to be enjoyed from ground level.

"There were three competition flights we wanted to do," said Dale Dommer, one of the organizers. "We did not get any of them in."

None of the balloonists or crew members (the people who help assemble, recover and break down the balloon) seemed terribly disappointed Saturday and Sunday.

"We go to races all over," Dommer said, "with the knowledge we might not get to fly. We may fly every flight, none or somewhere in between. It's part of the life of being a balloonist."

Pilot Mike Hadley of Richland said ballooning happens about 50 percent of the time. He went traveling around one year where he and his wife were able to race 17 out of 19 times. But that's not typical. Averaged out over the years they've been flying, they expect about half their flights to take off.

"We did get to fly two nights. We cancelled the competition portion but we did a fun flight," Dommer said Sunday.

During the fun flight, there was a goal. Brandon Bloom of Indianola, sponsored by Hy-Vee, flew across Church Street toward Ottumwa Park. Below him was a kiddy pool. The crowd went wild when he successfully dropped his rubber duck into the water. And with the night glow and the fireworks display, said Dommer, the park was just packed.

That type of support comes from area residents who weren't at the event, too. Kelly Maxcy of Des Moines, said property owners in and around Wapello County were typically kinder than those in other areas.

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