I was working for the Dixie National Forest in Utah; volunteering at the Red Canyon Visitor Center mere miles from Bryce Canyon National Park.
I overheard something about a hot air balloon festival. WHAT?! A hot air balloon festival in tiny town Panguitch, Utah? Then I learned that there was a Smokey Bear balloon which is a part of the National Forest. “Um….hello!” I thought. I had been dreaming of going in a hot air balloon. To see them up close and personal. To see a bunch of them in the sky. This seemed like the perfect place! I was working for the forest service therefore must try to get in that balloon!!! And to share this experience as a family…bonus!
I contacted the district manager, got the number to the local crew, chatted and BAM! Jeff, the kids and I were on the volunteer list to help crew the balloon. What an honor! Seeing how the balloons are filled, packed, piloted was such a lesson. We felt like a part of the team. They tethered the balloon so the kids could have a quick “ride”. Jeff ended up crewing all weekend, rising before the sun crested the horizon, heading out in the cold and spending the morning helping before heading off to the celebrations and selling his glasswork creations as a vendor.
**Click that ^^ gallery to see the photos larger!**
The kids and I helped the 1st day and spent the rest of the weekend marveling over the balloons in the sky. And I was given something off my dream wish list: A hot air balloon ride!!! My face hurt from smiling so much. The ride was peaceful and calm and mesmerizing and exciting! The next day Jeff got to fly a quick flight, over our truck 🙂
At the end, all 4 of us were a part of a 1st flight celebration complete with champagne, certificate, traditional balloon blessing and Smokey Bear pins. What an amazing time for us all!