Angola Balloons Aloft 2013
The northeastern Indiana city of Angola welcomed pilots to it's 4th Angola Balloons Aloft event. Hospitality abounds at this event which is directed by Phil Clinger and organized by Marsha and Walt Drewes. The entire event committee and volunteers take great care of the pilots and crew while putting on an awesome show for huge spectator crowds.
Friday evening started off with a pilot and crew meal, master briefing, and sponsor flight. The weather was perfect and a mass ascension from the airport grounds made for a great show for the large crowd.
The first competition was Saturday morning and the weather was ideal. A low left and a higher right (with some speed) provided almost 50 degrees of steering for the first balloons in the air. The first target was a JDG placed in the yard of a church. Many good scores were to be had here as the wind stayed fairly constant. James Mitchell won the task with a 0.41m drop.
The second target was a Max Distance Double Drop on the festival grounds at the airport. The object of this task was to place to markers inside the "T" shaped design on the field. The winner would be the most distance between the two markers. There was also a pole on the field with two prizes: an Apple iPad, and a chance to win a new car from local car dealer Harold Chevrolet! (More on this later.) A lot was riding on this task and pilots knew they had to be low coming across to have a chance at the pole. Most swung it out wide to the right, counting on the low left to bring them back to the target and pole, but by this hour the low left began to fade. Most of the field would miss the target to the right, only a few would get both markers in the "T" for a valid score. While some were close - nobody got the pole either. Pilot Jim Birk said that he "forgot the pole was there and climbed over it." Lucky for the pilots though - the event desperately wanted to give the prizes away and awarded the pole prizes to the winner of the task, Steve King!
The third task was a HWZ task with two goal options for pilots to choose from. Most stayed low to ride what remained of the low left wind to the last target, only a few would make it in the scoring area.
After the three part task Jim Birk led Jeff Petsun and Paul Petrehn.
Director Phil Clinger called a one part FIN in stiff winds for the Saturday evening task. Variably gusty conditions persisted through the evening causing pilots to move many times looking for the correct launch point. Surprising to most, the winds eventually settled down into a somewhat steerable situation. Some of the late balloons were able to score very well. Shawn Raya was one of the last balloons to the target, scoring a 0.3m drop that won the task and moved him into first in the overalls!
Sunday morning is a rain date only at this event and with beautiful weather allowing for successful flights at all three opportunities no flight was held Sunday morning.
The awards banquet at this event is a must see with pilot Steve King trying his luck at winning a new car! Twenty envelopes were laid out on the table in front of Steve - he picked two. To win the $35,000 new car one of Steve's envelopes had to contain the word Grand and the other contain the word Prize. Steve opened his first envelope...... "Grand". The crowd went wild! Steve moved to the second envelope. For insurance purposes the envelopes are sealed very securely in multiple layers of plastic and paper coverings making opening it very difficult. The longer it took Steve to fight through the envelopes, the more the suspense built and the crowd got louder. Finally, he got down to the last layer, pulled the paper out containing his fortune, and........ "Loser"
It took a minute for things to settle down and the pilots and crew on hand gave a very thankful cheer to Harold Chevrolet for sponsoring the key grab and making things so exciting! But there was more to give away. The event paid overall money down to 15th place, and combined with $100 for glowing, most left with at least their gas paid for. Shawn Raya won the event by just 99pts over second place Joe Zvada. Paul Petrehn, Steve Mitchell, and Jim Birk rounded out the top five.
Thank you Angola for a very fun and exciting weekend! We'll see you all next year!