Destination: International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu

2 years ago I went to the festival in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and since then I have wanted to go up in a balloon to have the chance to photograph from the sky. I engaged a fearless friend who had a similar passion, and off we went. Here is the line up of balloons taking off this evening (if we get the yellow flag).

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Shortly after we arrived, we met our pilot, Dean Carlton from Illinois. Our balloon was called Cazou-ee.

International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu

There is a lot of work that goes into setting up the basket/balloon and requires a team of 6 people. First things first. Set up the propane system.

Then check to make sure we have at least a 30 foot flame to keep us in the air. Check.

International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu

We had to wait patiently for the “balloon ring master” to give us the yellow flag. It is all based on the weather with the wind speed being the most important component.

International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu

We got the go ahead. Now the rush began to get the balloon (aka the envelope) spread out, attached and filled.

My friend is in the right hand corner keeping an eye on everything to make sure it is attached properly. She knows I am a little nervous at this point.

International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu

Fire up the fans and pump some hot air into the balloon followed by cold air.

International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu

Oh my, the panic is setting in now.

International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu

All around us the balloons are filling up and starting to take off. Everything happened so quickly.

International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu

We quickly jumped into the balloon and waited to get the thumbs up to take off. This was the most frightening part of the voyage as everyone wants to take off but you have to give each balloon some space to clear each other so our crew had to hold us down as we rocked and rolled around a bit. I said my prayers…..

International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu

Lift off was smooth and very peaceful. The only sound I could hear my heart pounding.

International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu

The views were breathtaking.

International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu

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Here is a shot of the Richelieu river.

International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu

The sky was filled with balloons. It was so beautiful.

International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu

International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu

International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu

International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu

It was time to fire up the balloon. Each time the pilot released the propane, I jumped at least 1 foot in the air.

International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu

On average the baskets weight about 500 lbs. with all the gear (no passengers) and the balloon weights about 250 lbs.

International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu

It was time to consider where we were going to land. (I was considering this the minute we took off).

That small beige strip you see just below the red balloon was going to be our landing pad. Here we go…

International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu

We had a successful landing with only 3 bounces.

It seemed that everyone chose the same patch to land in.

International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu

While we were successfully on the ground another balloon was coming in very quickly right towards us……

International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu

Our crew quickly ran over to help the balloon land and not smash into us…so the story goes. Kaboom. They hit. Our balloon collided with theirs and we were thrown on the ground. Our pilot actually was tossed forward and out of the basket. We managed to stay in. NOW I needed to get out of there!!!

International Balloon Festival of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu

Once you land, the balloon gets collapsed and everything is put away. We then had to go and present the farmer with a customary bottle of champagne to thank him for letting us land in his field.

It was an experience to be remembered and cherished but not repeated. It is definitely not for the faint hearted.

 I did survive, thanks to my friend...

I did survive, thanks to my friend…