There are successful balloon events and then there are successful balloon events. The 1996 edition of the EAR Balloon Classic held each year in Nashville, was a success any way you measure it. Every scheduled flight was flown, two balloon glows, and the awarding of two $10,000 prizes. All flights, two glows and giving away all the money, that's success any way you cut it.
Intermedia was this years Name Sponsor (and will be for at least the next two years). The EAR Foundation at Baptist Hospital receives the benefits from all the ballooning and other activities. This annual event benefits those with hearing and balance impairments. In addition to balloons there were booths of food, souvenirs, games for the kids, pony rides, exotic animals more food and lots of music. Friday night the Nashville Symphony performed with guests Sam Moore and Rita Coolidge.
Friday evening the 71 balloons tethered for rides. When it was dark enough there was a spectacular balloon glow. All 71 pilots were present for the 5 a.m. pilot briefing Saturday morning, This was considered an accomplishment in itself. The morning flight was to be a "fly in" or "target trial." All pilots were to go at least one mile from the target field and fly in to place a plastic ring over a pole which was placed in the center of a 50 foot X, inside a 200 foot circle. There was a $10,000 prize riding on this flight. The object was to place your ring over the pole AND drop a baggie into one of several six foot circles along the edge of the big circle. All of the pilots made the one mile starting point with no trouble. Finding their way to the pole proved to be another thing. After a weather hold of one and half hours due to fog the Nashville Squirrely Winds took over. Only a few made the field. Most missed it by one-half mile or so. After the fog lifted it was a good morning for a fun flight. Some flights lasted up to two hours.
Saturday afternoon found over 10,000 spectators out in the blazing 95 plus temperature with no shade for miles. No one seemed to complain. This was a Hare and Hound "race." The Energizer Bunny was the Hare. It just seemed the thing to do. He had the option of selecting two target sites. Seventy one balloons, including a rabbit, a whiskey bottle and a golf ball, filled the sky over Edwin Warner Park all at once. The light winds kept them in sight of the spectators for nearly one-half hour. What a show. A second glow rounded out a great day of ballooning
Sunday morning's fly in was structured the same as the one Saturday morning. Since no one won the big money Saturday there were two prizes of $10,000 on this flight. There was a three hour window to make up to three passes at the target pole. This morning the winds favored the pilots and virtually everyone made the field and most made good throws at the X on their first pass. On their second pass Dr. Bill Bussey and Peter Scherm approached the pole almost side by side. As they reached the pole their envelopes were almost touching. Bussey placed one of his baggies in the small circle as he crossed the big circle. Scherm placed his ring over the pole with both hands making it look easy, Then Bussey put his ring over the pole. He had $10,000. Peter flew just three to four feet off the ground toward one of the smaller circles. Baggie at the ready he started to drift AWAY from his target. Quick thinking on his part and a "bump" from Bussey sent his balloon back toward the small circle. A perfect dead center toss gave Peter Scherm the other $10,000. Two big money prizes at almost the same time, what a show. And to think some people slept in that morning. Two other pilots put their rings over the pole but these were the only ones to get the pole AND the small circle.
Final standings, first through fifth place: Bill Bussey ($3,000 and $10,000), Steve Wilkinson $1,500, Owen Keown $1,000, Bert Carollo $750, and Earl Miller $700. They awarded money all the way to 25th place. Then there was Peter Scherm with his $10,000.
Balloonmeister David Eastland with Butch Stamps and Chief Score keeper J. T. Long gave Nashville the kind of balloon show they are famous for. How in the world will they top this one? I'll bet they are planning right now.
Left: Peter Scherm places his ring over the pole
Right: Peter Scherm prepares to toss his baggie into one of the small circles
and claim a $10,000 prize.