Hot air balloons come to Rimbey

Even though technology has advanced significantly, the magic of ballooning is still the same as it was more than 200 years ago

Sadie Russell was one of the ground crew helping Del Michaud

Sadie Russell was one of the ground crew helping Del Michaud

Even though technology has advanced significantly, the magic of ballooning is still the same as it was more than 200 years ago when two daring young men set off for the wild blue yonder in a flimsy balloon made of paper.

Rimbey’s Hot Air Affair, May 11 to 13, provided a wonderful opportunity for pilots and onlookers alike to enjoy, once again, the magic ballooning has to offer.

Del Michaud, the Hot Air Affair balloon meister, has been a balloon pilot since 1974. Michaud, from Calgary, has flown in 15 countries and competed in a number of Canadian Balloon Championship events. He is a former Canadian Hot Air Balloon Champion and has represented Canada at six world balloon championship events.

He flew his balloon named Windy at the Hot Air Affair.

Michaud took the time to chat about his years as a pilot before the evening flight May 12. He said it is a sport that some people get hooked on for life once they try it out.

“It’s still fun when you are older. And then you get your children involved and it becomes a family affair.”

Michaud said equipment is superior and fabric is more resilient than when he first began flying, but the basic concept is the same.

“Hot air rises, that hasn’t changed much,” he said. “We do have more resources available than in the past, but Mother Nature’s still the ruler.”

Michaud flew in Taiwan last July and found the experience most enjoyable.

“It was very nice and they treated us like kings.”

The seasoned balloon pilot said he has enjoyed winning some competitions.

“I have done some winning,” he said. “A lot (of winning) comes with practice. And the luck factor is always involved, too,” he added.

Pilot Dennis Myrthu, a retired air traffic controller has been a hot air balloon pilot for 33 years. At 81 years of age, Myrthu is as enthusiastic and excited about the sport as ever.

“I have enjoyed it,” he said. “It has been fun and it is a good feeling to know you are providing enjoyment for everybody.”

Myrthu enjoyed coming to Rimbey.

“It’s a real pleasure being here,’ he said. “It’s a great community and the countryside is beautiful.”

Pilot Richard Clark was also impressed with the hospitality shown the pilots in Rimbey.

“It’s been just fantastic. The landowners are superb. They are so friendly. It’s just been a great weekend.”

Clark admitted hot air ballooning is not without risks, but doesn’t believe it’s much different from almost any activity.

“Everything we do in life is risky.”

By Treena Mielke