The hubby and I have been volunteers with the Hudson Hot Air Affair for eight years. We initially volunteered to learn the ropes of what it takes to put on a hot air balloon rally. We had toyed with the idea of holding a balloon rally for the public at our farm. We were going to call it the "Round Barn Rally." We had one meeting on it and realized the huge liability and risk we would have to expose our home to and that idea was put to rest.
Our duties as Hot Air Affair volunteers have evolved over the years. John is usually a pilot in the event but this year we opted to keep the balloon parked for the winter. So John was put in charge of the scoring committee. The balloons participate in a "Hare & Hound" game where the lead balloon lands, the scoring committee lays out a 100 foot fabric X and the other balloons try to throw 4 oz. bean bags with streamers as close to the target center as possible. The scoring committee then is responsible for measuring and reporting the scoring results. The closest this year was 5'9" from center. It takes piloting skill and a bit of luck to get that close.
The bulk of my duties take place before the event. I do a lot of graphic design work; update logos, design the brochure and this year my button design ended up on the t-shirts as well. I also designed and update their website, hudsonhotairaffair.com. My other responsibility is coordinating the Minnesota Kite Society to come to the Hot Air Affair. They sell kites and fly some beauties in the air on Saturday of the event.
One of my other jobs is assembling the pilot manual. It's a folder with instructions, maps, itinerary, forms, official regulations and such. It's a bear and I'm usually in a big panic Thursday before the event putting it all together. Hubby got to experience my fervor first hand this year. It was not pretty but he was a trooper helping out with everything.
Every year I get stressed out and wonder if it is worth it. But then something like this happens...
Friday night is the Hot Air Affair torchlight parade in downtown Hudson. I've spent the last few years on the sidelines enjoying the parade as a spectator with friends. We started watching and an older man stood beside us to watch the parade. He had a young man with him. He started talking with me and asking about the parade. He learned quickly that he found the right person to ask questions; an event volunteer and the wife of a hot air balloon pilot. I felt bad neglecting my friends but I do enjoy talking to newcomers about the event and hot air ballooning.
He and his grandson had traveled across the state of Wisconsin from Milwaukee for the event after seeing an article on the Hot Air Affair in the Milwaukee Journal. We had a fun conversation about the Hot Air Affair, ballooning, the 1920's (which was the event theme) and his hobby of model trains. I gave him some hints of fun things to do over the weekend and when the parade was over, we parted ways. I kept an eye out for he and his grandson over the weekend but didn't see them.
On Sunday mornings after the balloon launch, we always have a breakfast and awards ceremony for the pilots, sponsors and crew. I had walked up to get some orange juice and there they were, in line to have breakfast. I wondered how they came to be at the breakfast which isn't open to the public. Turns out they took my advice and volunteered to be balloon crew. One of the people that was going to ride in the balloon decided to give up their spot for the Milwaukee man's mentally handicapped grandson. I got goosebumps. That's what this event is all about. Helping people like them take home memories they will cherish for a lifetime.