By Shari Fenn, Content Contributor
Have you ever kicked back on the grass and experienced the beauty of a blue sky filled with hot air balloons gliding silently by? Their bright jewel colors expand creating a panorama that takes your breath away!
It’s moments like this that you want to capture in a photograph.
Now you can!
The Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival has become one of Calgary Region’s most photographed fall events.
If you’re looking for some brilliant shots to up your game in social media then look no further!
Five fun days in High River
This will be the third consecutive year the Heritage Inn Hotels has sponsored the event in High River.
According to Rick Bart, General Manager, Heritage Inn Hotel & Convention Centre in High River, “We wanted to support an international caliber event in High River for the public, something that would bring joy and spectacular sights after a time of such distress and disaster of the June 2013 floods.”
All events are open to the public and are free.
This year’s festival will host 27 balloons with pilots attending from various countries including:
- United Kingdom
- USA (Alaska, Colorado, Montana, South Dakota)
- Across Canada
The Canadian pilots will compete for 5 days. The winner of this hot air balloon championship will qualify to fly at the Worlds in Saga, Japan October 30 – November 7, 2016.
The competition’s winner will be announced at the River City Classics 13th Annual Show & Shine on Sunday, September 27 in the downtown area of High River.
The Show & Shine is also a free event and everyone is welcome!
See the Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival schedule of events for a daily overview of activities and a map of the site location in High River.
Anatomy of a hot air balloon competition?
Photo credit: Sollera – Hot Air Balloon
A hot air balloon competition is not a traditional race in the way you would expect. In fact, the balloons don’t actually race at all.
The competition is a navigation contest to determine which pilot can best navigate the balloon through a series of locations. The balloon flight lasts approximately an hour.
Over the 5-day festival, the Canadian pilots will compete to see who most accurately completes one or more tasks.
The pilot with the best result in each task will receive 1,000 points. All other competitors receive between 0 and 1,000 points, based on their performance as compared to the winner.
The pilot who has accumulated the most points over the duration of the 5-days of flying will be the competition’s winner. To declare a champion, there typically needs to be a minimum of two flights and three tasks completed.
Don’t miss the Night Glow!
The Night Glow is the most popular event of the 5-day festival and it must be experienced to truly capture the emotions it brings out in you.
Night Glow is scheduled to run Friday, September 25 from 8:00 pm to 9:30 pm at the Rec Plex.
The balloons are set-up at sunset in the launch area and inflated as if they are going to take off. Instead of being allowed to ascend, they are held down by the ground crew.
The propane burners are ignited periodically to keep the balloons inflated with hot air. Since the event occurs at night, the balloons glow like huge light bulbs or Chinese lanterns, giving a spectacular display for photographers.
Visitors will be allowed to walk amongst the lit balloons, talk to the pilots and ground crew and take in the general splendor of the event.
If the Night Glow event on Friday is cancelled due to weather, an alternative Night Glow is scheduled for Saturday, September 26 starting at 8:00 pm.
Hot air balloon fun facts
Here are a few facts about hot air balloons that you may find interesting:
Catching the wind: Balloons can only go where the wind takes them – they cannot go against or into the wind. Pilots must accurately gauge the speed and direction of the winds at various altitudes, and be able to predict changes.
Team effort: A hot air balloon flight requires teamwork. Without their crew, the pilot cannot freely fly. Once the balloon has taken off, the crew maintains visual and/or radio contact with the pilot and follows the balloon to where it lands.
GPS savvy: Some competitors use computer programmers to help them forecast and plan their flights. The use of a GPS (Global Positioning System) to assist with navigation and goal selection is now very common in competitions.
All flights are subject to weather so to check the schedule of events daily.
Remember to bring your camera!
If you plan to attend or have attended the hot air balloon festival before we’d love to hear your experience!