The 9th annual Lake Red Rock Balloon Fest took place at North Overlook Beach from July 12-14. The event was hosted in partnership by the Red Rock Lake Association, Red Rock Army Corps of Engineers and Pella and Knoxville communities.
Thirty-eight pilots from around the country brought their hot air balloons to take part in this year’s festival. Balloon launches were scheduled for Friday evening, Saturday morning and evening, and Sunday morning.
Due to weather conditions and lack of wind, both of Saturday’s launches were canceled. Spectators were still able to view the balloons though, as they were inflated for a static show on the ground.
“It’s very frustrating. I don’t like it, but that’s the way it goes sometimes,” said pilot Bret Christian of Indianola.
Christian first started participating and competing in balloon festivals in 2003 and has continued doing so for the past 16 years. Growing up in Indianola, he spent time crewing and volunteering at what used to be the National Hot Air Balloon Classic. He helped friends with their hot air balloons throughout the years but finally decided in 2000 that he was tired of crewing and instead he wanted to fly.
“I’ve been doing it ever since,” said Christian. “I really like the competition aspect, so flying at targets, trying to achieve scores, trying to do as good as I can on the competition side of it is really what I like.”
Tyler Thompson, a pilot from Des Moines, also enjoys the competition aspect of flying hot air balloons. Thompson considers himself a competitive person by nature, so he enjoys competing and doing well in competitions.
Thompson has been ballooning since he was born. He had an uncle who first got his license at age 16 in 1978 and introduced the hobby into the family.
“My uncle flew for a while and then went to college. My grandparents got bored then and bought their own balloon,” said Thompson. “So then I was born and when I was old enough, I got my license and have been flying ever since. It’s in my blood.”
The weekend-long festival held competitions where pilots threw weighted bags at targets from their balloons while in the air. Matt Fenster received the winning cup, while Scott Armstrong placed first, Grant Pfeifer placed second and Jon Shelton placed third.
Balloon Fest also included other activities such as a pancake breakfast, 5K/10K race, food vendors and live music.