Forest Park Balloon Race

Forest Park Ballon Race 2011

First of all, Forest Park is the coolest. It just is. Did you know it houses one of the last free zoos in America?

And it has things like the The Great Forest Park Balloon Race, which, it’s worth mentioning, is also free. And a great amount of fun.

We really enjoyed the Balloon Glow on Friday night, but my kids were itching to see the balloons actually take off! Naturally, we returned Saturday afternoon for the race launch.

So, how does one race hot air balloons, exactly? Well, in this case, it’s kind of like a fox hunt. One balloon (the “fox” or “rabbit”) takes off first, and as soon as it’s in the air, the race begins, and the field of chaser balloons (the “hounds”) begin filling up their balloons and get off the ground as fast as they can. Whichever hound balloon gets closest to the fox balloon wins (the Forest Park race usually has a giant Energizer Bunny as the “rabbit” balloon, but it was too windy for that particular balloon to fly this time, so a different, normal-shaped, balloon was chosen as the lead). And then apparently balloon crews go trucking all over tarnation to pick up the balloons and their pilot crews.

Efficient? Absolutely not. Beautiful, whimsical and loads of fun? Absolutely yes.

My little man was so excited by the steady stream of giant balloons floating off the ground and into the sky that he honestly didn’t know which way to look sometimes, let alone point.

Pointing

We didn’t actually get rained on, but the sky was grey and dreary the entire afternoon. I got pretty tired of seeing it while I was editing pictures, so I took advantage of the miracle of digital photography and piped a blue sky into this one. Playing pretend with photography is fun.

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My kids (and I, admittedly) loved the whole afternoon, in spite of the grey drab sky. Really, think about it: someone decided it would be a good idea to make the most ginormous balloon they could fashion, string a basket to it, sit in the basket, fill the balloon with hot air, and let the wind take them where it may. That is just crazy enough to make you want to participate, even if just by pointing and waving and clapping and yelling “bye-bye” every time a balloon takes off.

The field where the balloons launched was at the top of a hill, so sometimes after they took off, they would dip down behind some trees. I don’t know why, but seeing them float down and back up from behind a line of trees was my favorite thing.

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At one point, my two girls started making up and shouting out a song about balloons filling up the sky. It was definitely a song-worthy event.

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And this is what a hot air balloon looks like when it flies directly overhead:

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Granted, participating in both days took some doing, and I hesitated about it at first. My husband happened to be working at both times, so it was just me, my double stroller, and my three toddler/preschoolers navigating the balloon field and the utter madness of the surrounding fair. It was a bit of a hike to get us all there (literally – even if you find a close parking spot, which you probably won’t, you still have to make your way up a hill to the balloon field). It was a little stressful keeping them all near me in the crowd (the three of them posed a serious challenge to my two eyes and two arms). When it was all said and done, I was exhausted. But it was definitely worth the effort. Surprise: things that are worthwhile often require a little effort, and I’m pretty sure I would have regretted not going.

I loved this event.
My kids loved this event.
This entire event was free.
We left happy.

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