www.balloonlife.com

03.2001

14

State of Ballooning

by Greg Livadas

Missouri

The Gateway Arch, one of the country’s
mostrecognizablelandmarks,haslong
beenatargetofbarnstormingairplane
pilots who couldn’t resistthe temptation
ofbuzzingthroughthe630-footmonu-
ment.
Butthefirstaircraftto
fly through with permission
was in 1973, when St. Louis
balloonistNikkiCaplanin-
flatedherballoonfromits
baseandtookoffwiththe
parkdirector on board.
“She hit one of the legs
two-thirdsofthewayup,”
saidDonCaplan,herhus-
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
startedflyingin1968, died
in1985 of cancer.
Inlateryears,theVP
Fair,heldregularlyatthe
same park alongthe Missis-
sippiRiver,includedbal-
lo on swhi chso met imes
headedrightfortheArch,
looking liketheworld’s larg-
est croquetgame.
Atleasttwootherbal-
loons haveflown through the
Arch, again,touchinga leg
as they went through.
“Thewindsarevery
squirrelygoingthroughthe
Arch,” Caplansaid.
VPFairorganizerMelHanson,of
nearbyHouseSprings,saidrestrictions
about flying too close to the Arch became
too hard to accept for balloonists who are
at the whim of the winds.

“Th ey were real particular down
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

worthit.”
Hansonsaidballoonswere lastpart
of the VP Fair in 1987.
Other than Steve Fossett’s two trans-
global attempts that began in neighboring
BuschStadium,the closestballoonsthe

ArchseesthesedaysareinSeptember,
when 65 balloons fly a couple miles away
atTheGreatForestParkBalloonRace.
The race, witnessed by more than 100,000
spectators,whichwasstartedbyNikki
Caplan as a benefit for the park, built for
the 1904 World’s Fair.
Other thanflights from
St.Louisparkseachyear,
balloons are pretty rarein St.
Louis today.
“There’ssomuchcon-
gestion,there’snoplaceto
land,” said David Rapp, the
state’sonlydesignatedex-
aminerforballoons.Pilots
flyingfromthecitywould
need to fly 10 miles to begin
fin dinglandingspots,he
said.
EvenbeforetheGate-
wayArchwasbuiltafter
World WarII, St. Louis wel-
comedballoonsandhosted
numerous balloon races. Gas
plantsprovidedthelighter-
than-airlift.In1859,John
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
1929.”
Anordi nancedatin g
back then requiring a $25 fee
everytimeaballoonisin-
flatedin St. Louis stillexists, Rappsaid.
Thefeewasoriginallypaidtohave the
fire department show up forballoon infla-
tions.

IMAGE sob010301.gif

Missouri continued on page 16

In 1973 Nikki Caplan flew the first aircraft, with permission, through
the Gateway Arch on the banks of the Mississippi River in St. Louis.

IMAGE sob010302.gif

www.balloonlife.com

03.2001

16

Clubs:
GatewayAerostaticAssociation,75members,more than
half pilots, meetings on the third Wednesday of each month
inSt.Louis;clubflightsonthesecondSaturdayof each
month; annual safety seminar; club long jump. Dues are $20,
or $30 per familyandinclude a bimonthly newsletter, The
Log.Contact:GAA,P.O.Box31336,DesPeres,MO
63131. www.gaa.cc
HeartofMissouriBalloonClub,formedinNovember,
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;
add$5foreachadditionalvotingmemberinthesame
household.Contact:TimGraham,8401W.TrailsWest
Drive, Columbia, MO 65202. 573-445-2688.

Events:
Firefall,inSpringfield,theSaturdaybefore theFourthof
July,10balloonsflyasingleafternoonflightaspartof
Springfield’s Fourth of July Celebration; symphony, plays,
crafts,60,000spectators.Contact:CarsonElliff,3232E.
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
beforeLaborDayweekend,35balloonsflyfourflights,

Friday afternoonthrough Sunday morning in sanctioned or
funcompetitionforanarrayofprizes;glows;parties;
children’s area. Contact: GarySines, 5212 Oakland Gravel
Road ,Columbia,M O65202 .573-814-4000 .
www.uscellularballoonclassic.com
FlyWithMe InTowerGrovePark,inSt.Louis,thelast
SaturdayinAugust,20 balloonsflyanafternoon hare and
hound flight for fun. Contact: David Rapp, 12 Spoede Lane,
St. Louis, MO 63141. 314-569-0164.
GreatPershingBalloonDerby, inBrookfield,LaborDay
Weekend,40balloonsflyfiveflights,Saturdaymorning
throughMondaymorninginsanctionedcompetitionfor a
$1,500 prize purse; Launch Site Nite Lite on Sunday; parade
includingchasevehicles,BalloonDerbyQueen;dance.
Contact:SherryTechau,P.O.Box451,Brookfield,MO
64628. 660-2585290.
The Great Forest Park Balloon Race, in St. Louis, the third
Saturday in September, 65 balloons fly a fun hare and hound
race;glowonFriday;entertainment,symphonyconcert,
children’sgames,parachutes,photoexhibition;120,000
spectators; contact: Dan Shetler, 29 Briarcliff, St. Louis, MO
63124.314-9932468 .http://promos.postnet.com/
balloon race
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.

IMAGE sob010303.gif

Branson

• Brookfield

• Columbia

• Jefferson City

• Springfield

• KansasCity

St. Louis

17

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03.2001

IMAGE sob010304.gif

Mike Wadley, president of the Gate-
wayAerostaticAssociation, formedmore
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

Most areapilots therefly south of
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
City.
Missouri’sballoonistpopulation
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
was born.
“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
November.
“It’sarealinterestingplacetofly.It’s
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
said.
“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.”

$300 or $350 per couple, he said.
“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.”

IMAGE sob010305.gif
IMAGE sob010306.gif

Nikki Caplan gets up
close and personal
with the Gateway
Arch.

Above: Missouri’sfly-
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
Arch.

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