Despite scalding temperatures for Chattooga County residents, this weekend marks the return of the balloons to Floyd’s neighbor to the north, but not without some difficulties.
Dave Knoblock was among a group of pilots who were waiting for just the right conditions Saturday afternoon to fill up their balloons and cast off at Chattooga County High School, where this year the fifth annual Northwest Georgia Balloon Festival moved to from Menlo.
The Mount Juliet, Tenn., native was having a grand time at the festival.
Knoblock came upon hot air balloons through his brother in 1994 after he was invited to participate in a balloon race in Austria. After a two-week trip with his brother through Austria, Knoblock said he was hooked and came back immediately from the trip and bought himself a balloon.
“Its not a very logical way of traveling,” he said. “You can’t go anywhere with a balloon. But its fun. Everybody likes it. It’s like a fantasy to all of your passengers. Just a great, great hobby.”
The Northwest Georgia Hot Air Balloon Festival benefits Chattooga County High School and continues today from noon to 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for children. Parking is free.
John Cavin, a balloon pilot from Menlo, explained that ballooning is more science than hobby. It’s pretty basic in its mechanics, but a lot of conditions go into whether you can lift off from the ground with nothing but hot air.
“Well its just ninth grade science: hot air rises. If you capture it, it will lift whatever you capture it in if it’s the right cubic feet,” Cavin said. “So we put hot air into the balloon — the envelope part — and then it lifts and we hook a basket to it and it takes off.”
But there’s a bit more to it than that. Air temperatures have to be just right, because the air inside a hot air balloon requires the temperature to be 100 degrees warmer than the air outside the balloon itself. So on a hot June day like those experienced this weekend, the air inside a balloon would have to be above 200 degrees just to get it inflated, and hotter for passengers to go inside.
“Generally the best time to fly a hot air balloon is the first hour after sunrise and the last hour before sunset,” Cavin said. “That’s because the winds are at their least amount then.”
But the work for the experience — at least to those like Cavin and Knoblock — is worth it.
“You can’t compare it to an airplane or a helicopter because you’re flying so slow,” Knoblock said. “You’re moving with the wind fairly close to the ground anywhere from 500 to 1,000 feet above the ground.”
If you go
What: Northwest Georgia Hot Air Balloon Festival
Where: Chattooga County High School, Summerville
When: Today, noon to 7 p.m.
Admission: Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for children. Parking is free.