Colors Aloft Flew to New Heights

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 People of all ages gathered at Central Park on Aug. 27 for the fourth annual Colors Aloft Balloon Festival.

    The afternoon kicked off at 4 p.m. with a Civil War era baseball game. Players dressed in simple white shirts and pants as that was the common uniform at the time. Instead of playing on a baseball field, they played on a grassy field without baseball mitts. The umpire often encouraged the crowd to cheer for their team by shouting “huzzah” and sang traditional fight songs for each team.

    The event was held in a picnic style. Families brought blankets and chairs along with their food to watch the balloons glow.

    “It was super nice outside and we went with a group of friends so it was kinda just fun hanging out with everybody,” junior Maddie Laham said.

    Visitors could enjoy a variety of activities while waiting for the balloons to take off. Slam Funk, a band of students from Grayslake North, performed for the second year. Boy Scouts set up carnival games and a rock climbing wall. Nonprofit organizations set up booths where people could learn more about their impact on the community.

    Meanwhile visitors were enjoying the activities, eleven balloons made an appearance at the festival. The festival has grown since it first began in 2013, when only seven hot air balloons attended. Sponsors helped cover the cost of moving the balloon and all of the equipment it takes in order to fly a hot air balloon.

    “I think it’s kind of a cool experience to kind of see hot air balloons since it’s not something you see everyday,” Laham said.

   While the crowd eagerly waited for liftoff, the balloons did not take off due to the strong winds. A black test balloon was released to test the wind, and immediately took off and disappeared into the sky. The pilots, crew members, and event coordinators met and decided not to risk anyone’s safety by flying in the poor weather conditions, especially since some of the pilots had never flown from Grayslake before. Despite this, they were all determined to “give the best glow possible” for the audience.

    Each pilot had a crew of about four members to help them with the preparations before liftoff. The balloon itself took about 15 minutes to inflate and is 80 feet tall and 60 feet wide. Pilots stay connected with crew members through radio, apps, and visuals. Unable to control the exact landing location, balloons will land anywhere from open fields to someone’s backyard.

    “We’ll run up to someone’s house and ask if [the pilot] can land in their yard. The people always say ‘of course’ and are super excited,” one crew member explained.

    “As long as the weather’s nice. I just think it’s fun and it’s a cool experience to see all of the balloons,” Laham said.

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Colors Aloft Flew to New Heights