pilots who couldn’t resistthe temptation
fly through with permission
was in 1973, when St. Louis
parkdirector on board.
“She hit one of the legs
ban d.“Itwasallsmoo th
metal, so she wasn’t too con-
cerned. She said the director
wasinspecting the Arch.”
Caplan, one of the first
female balloonists when she
in1985 of cancer.
same park alongthe Missis-
lo on swhi chso met imes
looking liketheworld’s larg-
loons haveflown through the
Arch, again,touchinga leg
as they went through.
about flying too close to the Arch became
too hard to accept for balloonists who are
at the whim of the winds.
there,” Hanson said. “They kept stressing
it’s a monument, not a park. I was re-
minded of that daily. Finally the marshal
said if onemoreballoon hits the Arch, I’m
spending the night in jail. It just wasn’t
of the VP Fair in 1987.
Other than Steve Fossett’s two trans-
global attempts that began in neighboring
when 65 balloons fly a couple miles away
The race, witnessed by more than 100,000
Caplan as a benefit for the park, built for
the 1904 World’s Fair.
Other thanflights from
balloons are pretty rarein St.
land,” said David Rapp, the
need to fly 10 miles to begin
World WarII, St. Louis wel-
numerous balloon races. Gas
Wise flew a record-breaking
fl igh tfro mSt.Lou isto
Henderson, New York.
“Wehad a largegas bal-
loon community,” Rapp said.
“Wehad balloons pretty con-
tinuously here from 1895to
Anordi nancedatin g
back then requiring a $25 fee
flatedin St. Louis stillexists, Rappsaid.
fire department show up forballoon infla-
the Gateway Arch on the banks of the Mississippi River in St. Louis.
half pilots, meetings on the third Wednesday of each month
month; annual safety seminar; club long jump. Dues are $20,
or $30 per familyandinclude a bimonthly newsletter, The
about 75 members mostly in Central Missouri, meetings on
the second Monday of each month in Columbia to promote
safety, courtesy and enjoyment of ballooning. Dues are $20;
Drive, Columbia, MO 65202. 573-445-2688.
Springfield’s Fourth of July Celebration; symphony, plays,
Amidon St., Springfield, MO 65804. 417-883-0412.
Fourth of July Downtown Celebration, in Jefferson City, 18
balloons glow onJuly3, fly for fun onthe afternoon of the
Fourth from the Capitol grounds; daytime activities, bands,
carnival rides, fireworks. Contact: Jim Wolters, 1209Mis-
souri Blvd., Jefferson City, MO 65109. 573-636-6300.
U.S.Cellular BalloonClassic,inColumbia,the weekend
children’s area. Contact: GarySines, 5212 Oakland Gravel
Road ,Columbia,M O65202 .573-814-4000 .
SaturdayinAugust,20 balloonsflyanafternoon hare and
hound flight for fun. Contact: David Rapp, 12 Spoede Lane,
St. Louis, MO 63141. 314-569-0164.
$1,500 prize purse; Launch Site Nite Lite on Sunday; parade
The Great Forest Park Balloon Race, in St. Louis, the third
Saturday in September, 65 balloons fly a fun hare and hound
spectators; contact: Dan Shetler, 29 Briarcliff, St. Louis, MO
Fall Festival of Colors, in Eldon near Lake of the Ozarks, last
weekendinSeptember, 25balloonsflythree flights Satur-
daymorning through Sundaymorninginfuncompetition;
crafts. Contact: CarsonElliff, 3232 E. Amidon St., Spring-
field, MO 65804. 417-883-0412.
than 25 years ago,said St. Louis’ rich
ballooning history continued with mod-
ern hot-air balloonists.
“A lot ofpeople grew up with the
sport,” he said. “Some early pioneers in
thesportof ballooning,like NikkiCaplan,
were from here.”
Today,30-45 privately-owned bal-
loons are based in and around St. Louis,
Wadley said. That doesn’t include Mel
Hanson’s fleet of 55 balloons, mostbear-
ing corporate logos of things such as beer,
soft drinks, moving companies, newspa-
pers, and batteries.
“We have some of the most difficult
flying in the country, with every type of
airspace you can imagine,” Wadley said.
Mostarea pilots fly in St. Charles or
St. Louis counties,about20 west and
south of St. Louis. Two full-time com-
mercial businesses are based there, with
balloons carrying up to 14 passengers at
$175 to $225 per person.
“It’s really aniceareadown here
where we fly,” Hanson said. “We’ve got
plenty of landing spots.”
He’s30 milesfrom St.Louis and can
usually see the Arch when he flies there.
Of the state’s 5.5 million residents,
about 2.5 millionlive in the metropolitan
St. Louis area.
Onthe west said of the state, about 20
active balloonists live around Kansas City,
on both the Missouri and Kansas sides of
the Missouri River.
“If the windis in one direction, we’ll
fly fromMissouri. If it’s from another,
we’ll fly from Kansas,”said Rick Irwin.
The flying season is usually May to
October,and commercial pilots charge
Kansas City, away from the airport, but
it’s not unusual tofly overRoyals or
Chiefs games near Independence.
Rapp said most of Missouri features
great flying over agricultural areas with
the exception of heavy forests between St.
Louis and Springfield. Several small ral-
lies are held in Brookfield, Springfield,
and from the capitol grounds in Jefferson
soared after the National Championships
were held in Columbia from 1995 to1997.
More than 200 balloons filled the skies
during the championships, and a new wave
of pilots, observers and crew members
“The Nationals really helped Colum-
bia get excited about ballooning,” said
Gary Sines, who moved there in 1993.
Today, there are 17 active balloonists in
the area,anda newclub,the Heart of
Missouri Balloon Club, was formed in
theperfectsize town,”Sinessaid. “Wefly
from one edge andland on theoutskirtsof
town, landing in a park or school yards.
We tryto stayoutof the farmland asmuch
as possible just to avoid any problems.”
While theNationals gavethebal-
looning population a shot in the arm, the
saturation of balloonsduring those weeks
alsocreatedsome landownerissues, Sines
“We have everything from zebras to
ostriches to cattle,” hesaid. “Since we
changed how we approached our flying,
we cut our landowner problemsto almost
nil. It’s not as bad as it was.”
“It’sreally nice flying. We have a lot
ofopenareas and rolling hills on the
outskirts of the city,” Irwin said. “We’re
flyingin residential areas. There’s a lotof
open areas in housing additions.”
close and personal
with the Gateway
ing ambassador is
sponsored by the state
Division of Tourism.
The BFA’s National
Championship in Co-
lumbia sparks inter-
est in using balloons.
Right: V.P. Fair in
St. Louis used to take
off from the Gateway
Arch until it became
to difficult to predict
that balloons would
not fly through the