Eleven hot air balloons rose from the back lot of Southington's Aquaturf Club this morning. The CT Lighter than Air Society (CLAS) sponsored a holiday balloon rally in memory of Mike Bollea, who passed away in March 2009.
Each year in December, Mike would don a Santa suit and fly his balloon, he and his crew handing out candy canes to the kids they encountered on their flight. In his honor, we recreated his flight this morning.
Most of us wore hats and festive garb, although we did manage to field two Santas and one Mrs. Claus. It was a beautiful day to fly, with most pilots heading northeast toward Camp Slopers and Timberlin Golf Course.
After the flight, a toast to our friend Mike, and a meet-up at the Plantsville truck stop for breakfast (not exactly haute cuisine, but a big enough space for the 30 or so pilots and crew)
At left, student pilot Kristen on the burner, initial ascent. Kristen bought a small basket a while back, with room for just two passengers. The propane tanks are suspended outside the basket, and the burner is affixed to a ring connected via cables and carabieners.
Below, the Berkshire Balloons team - pilot in training Kristen, pilot Robert, and crew Jude. The most entertaining balloon team in the state, bar none!