The program for the race yesterday featured a story about the 1989 balloon race, the only one where the balloons actually took off and landed in the same place (lack of wind). The story was so funny that I re-printed it here…with a photo. Of course.
A small issue with balloon “races”–of the Hare and Hound variety, such as the Great Forest Park Balloon Race–is that spectators rarely get to see both the beginning and end of the event. The balloons tend to fly away.
That wasn’t the case in the 1989 race. In fact, the balloons never left the park–they just flew from the Balloon Field to the eastern edge of Forest Park, near Kingshighway. Winds were extremely light. Hare pilot, Ted Staley, rightly judged that the balloons would never clear the city, or even make it to the Arch grounds, it was so calm.
The Hare landed across a lake. The hounds gently floated to the target. Some, literally. The ingenious pilots tried it all: Steve Lohr used the Slighshot Approach, with his crew swinging the basket of his flying seven-story balloon across the water to the ‘X’. Gene Grace tried the Cleopatra Crossing. His crew swam the lake, haulted the tethered balloon lines across, then pulled the basket to the target.
The race was contested greatly. Some heated exchanges were recorded. Then all were reminded that the trophy was a broken toaster, and protests weren’t allowed anyway because there is no protest procedure for the Great Forest Park Balloon Race (as noted by Ballooonmeister Henry Fett at the pilot’s meeting every year).
The result: Grace was awarded the win because of the damp effort of his crew. One balloon ripped through the trees, hit near the ‘X’ and was cited for second place and dim judgement.
I think you can see now why I enjoyed this race so much.