Hot air balloon rides kick off the Hot Air Jubilee. Organizers hope for more

JACKSON, MI — The Hot Air Jubilee has literally taken off, and officials have their fingers crossed for a flight-packed event this year.

The 2022 Hot Air Jubilee kicked off in Jackson with a media flight on Thursday night, July 21. A dozen balloons took flight, thanks to the good weather, and the pilots hope it will stay that way for the rest of the weekend, Balloon Meister Steven Sitko said.

“This event is a community event, and it stinks of stealing,” Sitko said. “It’s not a nice feeling as a balloon pilot because we want to fly. Nevertheless, we try to have other activities to set up for the community.

Related: Food, Music and Balloons: Here’s Your Guide to Jackson’s Hot Air Jubilee 2022

Balloons also took off at 7 a.m. on Friday July 22, making it the first public launch of the Jubilee since 2018. The media flight also took off in 2021.

Balloon launches from Ella Sharp Park, 2800 Fourth St., are also scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, July 23, and 7 a.m. Sunday, July 24, weather permitting. Entertainment, food, balloon glows and classic cars are also features of the weekend-long event that has been held in Jackson for nearly 40 years.

Pilots and community members can’t wait to see balloons continue to fly in the sky, Sitko said.

“For me, it’s amazing. I love flying, but I love seeing that sparkle in the eyes of kids and adults when I land and they can see the balloons,” Sitko said.

Related: Peek Through Time: July in Jackson means Jubilee where hot air balloons fill the sky since 1983

However, hot air balloons cannot take off whenever they want, said pilot and weather officer Tom Brown. Wind speed, heat, humidity and rain play a big role in whether or not they get airborne, Brown said.

“A lot of times you’ll hear words like burst, that means inconsistent, and we won’t fly. We can fly in 10 mph winds, but if there’s a gust of 20, it’s not good for flying,” Brown said. “We can fly 10 mph, but we prefer to have less than that.”

The National Weather Service Long Range Forecast for Jackson for the weekend calls for sunny skies Friday with highs of 88 and calm winds. Saturday calls for a 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms, mostly before 2 p.m., with highs of 89 and high winds. Sunday calls for showers and thunderstorms, with highs of 86 and high winds.

Pilots don’t usually check the weather before flight time, Sitko said. If the weather isn’t safe, pilots won’t fly, but there will always be opportunities to see the balloons during nighttime glows and static displays, he said.

Updates on balloon launches and events can be found on the Hot Air Jubilee Facebook page.

Pilot Michael O’Brien is looking forward to possibly flying all weekend this year, he said. This is his second year of participation in the Jubilee, and he hopes to make room for a larger audience.

“Obviously we only got to shine last year, which is a lot of fun, but flying is a little more fun,” O’Brien said. “So we’re excited and hoping for good weather this weekend too.”

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