Sunrise Balloon LaunchI guess I heard other people up or something, because I was sitting up in the couch when my mom walked in and said let's go. I don't think I slept well on that couch. Well anyway, so I grabbed my cameras and we were on our way. (I had also brought along a 25-exposure Advantix one-time use camera that my friends had given me for my 25th birthday.)
It was quite cold out, with the sun not up yet, and I was out there in shorts. But then so were a bunch of other people. The cheesy announcer was out there yet again. I'll bet the town loved that... those who preferred to sleep in... being blasted with this cheesy announcer's words coming out of the thunderous speakers they had at one of several stages in the park.
As we walked towards the main gathering of balloons, we passed the Energizer Bunny balloon all lain out flat on the ground, covering an area the size of two tennis courts. The normal balloons only covered one.
Finally a little after 6:30am, the announcer gave the order for the pilots to start inflating their balloons. Unlike the Night Glow, this time spectators were allowed to walk amongst the balloons in the field. There had to be at least 30 or 40 of them. With huge fans blowing air into them, they would slowly rise out of the ground, then as there was enough clearance they would aim the burner into the hole and heat up the air so it continues to rise into an upright position. A long rope is tied to the very top of the balloon, and it is one person's job to hold onto the other end of that rope on the ground as the balloon gets close to going vertical. They need to pull on the rope to keep it from going vertical too fast, or else its momentum will just carry it right over the top and it will fall down on the other side. Sometimes you'll see someone who will lean backwards and let the rope pull them, sliding their feet along the ground. Most of them just walked it up though.
The first few balloons started lifting off and I was taking pictures like crazy. The announcer would give the name of each balloon as it goes up. While most of the balloons were launching, the Energizer Bunny was still only half inflated. That's just how big it is. :) Pretty soon the sky was just filled with balloons above me. Some of them started going to the north, but most seemed to be going south. Then the few that were going north started going south as well. As it turns out, there was a "box wind" that was blowing north at one altitude and south at another, so some of the first balloons that had launched caught the reverse wind to come back and land right in the same place they took off. Saves the chaser truck a lot of work I guess.
By that time the Energizer Bunny was finally going upright, but the drum still wasn't fully inflated. But most of the other balloons were gone so people flocked over to see the bunny launch. When it finally went up, everyone cheered. The announcer pointed out that its ears alone are the size of a normal hot air balloon. In some of my photos that show the bunny and other balloons in the same frame, the bunny appears bigger, which your eye automatically attributes to its being closer. But if you look at the basket, it's actually smaller than the baskets of the other balloons, indicating it's further away, yet still angularly larger. That's darn big. :)
After the bunny went up, there wasn't much else to see, so we went back and got some breakfast. Mom made me an omelet with pieces of ham in it and toast. Yum. :)
The Big PartyThem somehow time passed, and at some point around noon I think Rick and Peachy showed up. Peachy walked in with a huge vase and an armful of flowers, some yellow tablecloths, and who knows what else. She was apparently in charge of the big party that was going to take place there that night. Rick had to catch his flight out of there because he had to work the next day or something. So someone took him to the airport... I didn't go along because you can't see people to the gate anymore so what's the point. I said by to him as he walked out the door. And I guess Peachy went out to get more stuff for the party.
I made myself a little sandwich for lunch and lounged around, letting the "music" from down at the park permeate every cell in my body. At one point supposedly Blues Traveler was playing, but it sounded like crap. Mumsy and Pop Pop couldn't stand it and had to close the doors, but that barely helped.
Eventually other relatives started showing up. My mom's brother Steve and his wife Becky and daughter Nora and Becky's mother showed up... Then Neil and Dennis had a bunch of their friends... Then there was my mom's cousin Susan and her mother (who is Mumsy's sister) and her husband Lavir (hope I spelled that right) and her daughter Megan and husband Jed. Wow, how am I doing? They said there would be a quiz. I guess this is it. :) There was also a couple there who are the parents of a friend of Neil's, and the father is good friends with Dave because they both officiate soccer or something. I think that covers the main people I met. There were some other kids there around my age and younger but they must have been friends of Dennis and Neil because I wasn't introduced and they all kinda took off.
Dave was being the shuttle service that night. See, the place where Mumsy and Pop Pop live is a prime location to view the fireworks, but they don't want the whole down clogging up what little parking they have for the residents there. Each resident was allowed a blue pass they could give to a guest that would allow them into the complex, which has a gate and security guard. My dad's car was parked in a guest space while they were still available early that morning, but then we dared not move it for fear of losing the space. Pop Pop has a reserved space in a garage underneath their building, but he moved his car out to guest parking when there were spaces available, too. Dave has the blue guest pass that allows him to park in Pop Pop's reserved space. So he's the one who had to go pick up people who had to park far away
Then Creedence Clearwater Revival started playing down at the park. They sounded a little better than Blues Traveler. I'm not too familiar with either group, though. I've probably heard their stuff on the radio and didn't know who they were.
We all enjoyed a help-yourself-to-the-enormous-platters dinner complete with shrimp, sushi, chicken wings, fruit and vegetable trays, rolls, cold cuts, you name it.
As the concert went on, herds of people flocked along the patch of grass just outside the complex fence below our balcony. They were all walking towards the concert. But some were walking away. One guy walking along looked up at us and said "No fair! You have the best seats!" Sucks to be them. :)
Park security had put up yellow caution tape around the field beyond where people were walking, which was the fall-out zone for the fireworks. They had the sprinklers going on that field all afternoon, too.
Pretty soon the concert was over and the fireworks began. I was well prepared with my camera bag hanging off the railing in front of me. The display was choreographed to music but nobody nearby had the music playing loud enough for me to hear it. Still, the fireworks were spectacular. Not quite as good as NYC or DC I would guess, but far better than any I had seen in person before. They didn't just shoot up one shell at a time for us to ooh and ahh at its creator. They painted the sky with them. They would do a bunch of circles, then a bunch of hearts, then a bunch of the kind that explode twice, like the pieces of shell that go out from the first explosion each explode themselves. Then they did a nice full-blown finale. Not the finale-in-a-box I'm used to seeing. In addition to the low stuff they filled the sky with high stuff as well. There were some single shells that would explode into HUGE spider plant looking things with gold glitter that lingers, and they could fit 5 normal fireworks inside that same area. Those things were huge. I shot one photo of the finale, and then decided a video would be better. But when I went back to view the video later, I was devastated to find that it was nothing but 3 seconds of black picture and somebody going "WOW!" nearby. For some reason it didn't start recording until right after the show ended. Weird. :(
Well our little party continued for a little while after the fireworks because we didn't want to deal with traffic, so we just hung around and kept an eye on the traffic across the park to see when it clears up. About a half hour to an hour later people started leaving. Pop Pop gave me and some other people a ride back to Dave & Peachy's and I spent the night there.