The 42nd annual Great Pershing Balloon Derby included 37 hot air balloons and many new attendees to the event.
Although some weather kept the balloons grounded Friday and Saturday, the pilots were able to take off Sunday morning.
The Great Pershing Balloon Derby began with the South Main Flame last Friday night. The event included four hot air balloons and many local attendees. The balloons weren’t allowed to inflate due to gusting winds, but they were able to set up their baskets and burners to demonstrate how the equipment worked.
According to hot air balloon pilot Kenny Jay, he was happy to come back home.
“Seeing family and friends and the competition keeps me coming back,” Jay said. “I love seeing the festival grow and I hope it keeps going for another 42 years.”
Jay is from Brookfield and is now pilot at the event. Jay, like several others, grew up in and around Linn County attending the balloon derby with their families and now compete in the event they grew up watching.
The next event for the balloon derby was the parade on Main Street. The parade featured many local groups, Brookfield first responders and the hot air balloon pilots. The pilots were allowed to pick a theme for their parade entries.
Jay won the parade with his New Orleans themed float and received at $25 gift certificate to County Line. Don Morris took second place receiving a free pizza from Pizza Hut and Linn McVay took third place receiving a free pizza buffet gift certificate to Pizza Hut.
Tamara Long and Mike Daniels visited the parade from Hale, Mo. The couple with their two kids decided to visit the parade after already being in Brookfield.
“We were going to get groceries and decided to see what this was all about,” Long said.
Long had been to the Balloon Derby previously as a child, but not since then. They said the may be back next year as well.
Prior to the parade, the first annual Lil’ Tykes Rolling into the Derby Decorating Contest was held. The event included a bike and balloon decorating for babies and children. The winners included, Harley Hecke - 0-1 year old division, Pazleah Sensenich - 2-3 year old division, Madison Sensenich - 4-5 year old division and Jacob Johnson - 6-7 year old division.
The balloon derby continued Saturday evening, although the balloons had to stay grounded. Like Friday, there was inclimate weather in the area. Saturday morning, the events had been cancelled do to the high chance of rain and an active storm close to Brookfield. No storms, or rain were reported Saturday evening, but wind gusts were high.
In order for the hot air balloons to take off, the wind has to be within 10 knots. Saturday evening the wind had died down considerably, but the gusts were higher than expected.
An impromptu balloon glow was scheduled for Saturday evening. From 7 p.m. that night until about 8 p.m. pilots inflated their balloons and let attendees get up close and personal with the balloons.
First time attendee and pilot Blake Aldrich, 17, won the balloon glow Saturday. Aldrich attended the balloon derby from Texas. Being around hot air balloons his entire life, he wanted to get his pilot’s license as soon as possible.
Aldrich thought the event was very nice and cannot wait to come back again next year.
First time attendees Michelle and Garion Fender came to Brookfield from Lawrence, Kan. Michelle works for a middle school library there and Garion is a high school student. They both say love hot air balloons.
“I like the fact that you can use them with little effort, it’s just the burner and the balloon,” Garion said.
“I just think they’re really beautiful,” Michelle said. “I’ve always wanted to come to an event like this.”
Long time attendees the Beetsma family came to the balloon derby this year. The Beetsmas are from Chillicothe and have attended the event since the 1970s.
They attended the very first balloon derby in Laclede in their grandparents camper. Now 42 years later, the family is still together attending in their much newer camper.
The hot air balloons had to stay grounded for the first couple days of events, but that didn’t stop locals and area attendees from coming anyway. Saturday night, the Myron Peacher Memorial Launch Site was completely packed with lawn chairs, blankets, umbrellas, miniature hot air balloons and people ready to see a neat event.
The emcee for the weekend was Travis Goosey. Goosey grew up in Linn County and has been around hot air balloons his entire life. Goosey’s cousin Rick has been a pilot for many years and keeps going to events.
Goosey says he wants everyone to experience hot air balloons.
“This is like a family tradition and I want to keep it going for the next generation,” Goosey said. “It’s a great event for the whole family. You get to see the area, the beauty of the event, there’s nothing else like it. It’s breathtaking.”
The 42nd annual Great Pershing Balloon Derby concluded Monday, Sept. 3. The balloons were able to take off and complete a few events Sunday morning. The winner of the balloon derby was veteran pilot Scott Armstrong. Armstrong competed in last year’s event and took second place then.