Hot air ballooning has been around for some time, but it continues to be a fun activity for those looking for a relaxing adventure. Since it began, people have been drawn to it due to the peacefulness and the serenity it provides. A great way to experience this right here in Centre County is to try Sky’s the Limit Ballooning, Inc. They provide excellent balloon rides with an expert crew right here in the State College area!
Hot air ballooning has a rich history, and has been around since the late 1700s. In France, the Montgolfier brothers began experimenting with hot air after they noticed filaments floating up their chimney after lighting a fire. After this occurrence, they continued experimenting with the hot air and the balloons. On June 4, 1783, the Montgolfier brothers launched a balloon for the public in the town of Annonay, France. This balloon soared 6,000 feet into the air, stayed up for 10 minutes, and flew a mile and a half!
Hot air balloons made their first appearance in the United States in 1793 when on January 9, a man named Jean Pierre Blanchard flew from the Walnut Street prison yard in Philadelphia to Woodbury, New Jersey, a distance of 9 miles. This flight took only 46 minutes and Blanchard was carrying some mail, which makes this flight considered to be the first airmail voyage.
An almost comical issue with the early hot air balloons was that farmers’ crops would get trampled by the balloon baskets and the crowds that came to watch the landing. In retaliation, farmers would attempt to pop the balloons with pitchforks upon landing. Ballooners realized they would only get one flight out of their balloon, so they began celebrating each one with a bottle of champagne!
Ballooning in Pennsylvania began in 1876 with flights above Bellefonte and Milesburg. This effort to bring ballooning to PA was lead by the Centre County Agricultural Society. There was heavy media coverage and excitement for the events; over 2,500 people arrived to watch the hot air balloon take off. This activity has held the test of time and is still an exciting thing to try today.
Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with Kathryn, a member of the crew and the wife of Kevin who is the owner of The Sky’s The Limit Ballooning. We had a great conversation about how she got into ballooning and her views about the sport. When I first asked how she was introduced to ballooning, she had mentioned that she and Kevin had been dating for a few years when the sport found his heart. Once he got involved and took his first ride, he was ecstatic to show her.
She went on to say that she was immediately drawn to the hot air balloons as it was, "something different. You don’t see it everyday, you don’t get to participate in it everyday," which makes it that much more exciting to be able to take a ride on one of the balloons.
When Kathryn was asked if she had chosen to make a career for herself in ballooning, she replied saying that she has a more “normal," 40 hours a week in an office setting type of job. However, she did mention that with Kevin running the ballooning company, it has made for a lot of flexibility raising their 2 children! Running the ballooning company gives Kevin a chance to work his own schedule, which frees up time for the family. Plus, he gets to work a job he loves!
Kathryn loves their balloon company, and enjoys every minute she can spend off the ground. She stated, “I think my favorite part is the calmness and the serenity you get being up there, especially in the mornings when it’s generally pretty quiet… it's just very peaceful.”
I had to follow this question up by asking Kathryn what her least favorite aspect of ballooning is. “My least favorite is probably when I realized I have a slight fear of heights,” she said with a laugh. She went on to say in one of her early balloon rides, a fellow passenger asked if they were really 2,000 feet in the air. When Kevin replied yes and Katheryn looked around, she felt a bit uneasy, but it did not turn her away from ballooning!
Even though the balloons reach heights of up to 3,000 feet, they're quite safe. The pilots make weather calls to make sure the ride is smooth, and they are all certified by the FAA. Kathryn also says the best way to keep you (the rider) and the others in the balloon safe is to listen to the captain. They know exactly how to keep you safe, so you should follow their instructions. This rationale seems to make perfect sense to me, and I would definitely heed this advice when ballooning!
My final question was one of rating the experience, asking Katheryn on a scale of 1 to 10, where she would rank this experience overall. “Oh it’s definitely a 10. It’s just something a lot of people will never have the opportunity to do in their lifetime. It’s an adventure like no other,” she replied. She stated that it might be similar to a helicopter or plane ride, but “it’s just totally different because of how peaceful and beautiful it is just to relax on the slow-going ride. It makes you very relaxed when you think about it.” I agree with her as I have ridden in a hot air balloon before, and we both concur it is both “relaxing and exciting” at the same time!
All in all, The Sky’s the Limit Ballooning company offers an exciting, yet peaceful, experience for you and some friends or family! The Sky’s the Limit gives a unique experience to visitors, along with a well-trained and friendly staff. What’s not to love? The next time you're looking for a peaceful adventure or a new experience to try, think of The Sky's the Limit and a hot air balloon ride.
Written by Patrick Hamrick
Edited by Griffin Relford