Ritchie retains title at Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival

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The hot air balloons flew over the High River five of the seven eligible times and the highly competitive Dale Ritchie of Golden, B.C., and his balloon, Emily, defended and retained their first title at the 10th annual Heritage Inn Hot Air Balloon Festival from 29-29 september. 21 to 25.

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The five-time Canadian champion, who has competed in “lots of North American championships and world championships” over the past 45 years of ballooning, really loves the festival in High River.

“High River is a lighter competition, a little more fun to do and I have bragging rights for another year,” Ritchie said. “I’m a competitive guy and have been since I started ballooning in 1978. This year I started in High River and for the first three days of the festival I didn’t really pay attention. to the rankings. I was third and then second in a few heats, and even fourth in a few, but what I always tell the riders when they want to compete is to be consistent. If you look at the numbers where everyone ranked this week, I never won or finished first on any of those tasks, but I was steady and consistent. That’s what wins the race.

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The festival uses formulas that benefit the closest drivers, such as bonus points for doing the task very well and the bottom half of the score splits the points.

“Heritage Inn Festival does the simplest and easiest things to do, like the Hare and Hound, because you only have to worry about one balloon taking off and all the others following and then scoring at from there. There aren’t complex changes or skills you have to make along the way like you do in more serious competitions, there you might have to do five or six tasks in one flight,” Ritchie explained. .

Ritchie says there are still skills involved during the Hare and Hound chase.

“The pilot must keep his balloon in line to arrive at the target that the “hare” has fixed. The winds change and shift and I always say, you can’t get there from here. You have to go here and there. It’s more about reading the winds and flying to hit the target,” Ritchie said. “Sunday morning the conditions were absolutely perfect and I was inches from the center of the target, it gave me the points I needed and I just beat the guys who were close to me in the standings. “

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David Gleed of Coldstream, BC with his ball, Squamish Rider (3,971 points) was in second place and third place fan favorite Peter Van Overwalle of Belgium/Montana with Princess Nelly, the elephant pink (3,678 points).

The crew team that Ritchie uses when he is in High River has been with him for many years.

“My dream team is Gary Perdue from Calgary, who has been with me for years, and Bob Denney from High River. Gary has been with me at the World and Canadian Championships. He also loves to ride hot air balloons. I can show up to an event, they know my ball, they know how I like to do things and we do it. Sometimes we don’t even talk because everyone knows what to do. I always ask for some volunteers too because that way it introduces more people to the sport. I really appreciate the help,” he said.

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Ritchie says many hot air balloon events in Alberta fly 15 to 20 balloons. ” It’s good. We all know each other, are good friends and many of us have been flying together for 30-40 years. I notice some really good new riders coming in and learning the sport and these events are good practice for them as well.

Most of the balloons at the festival were called “round balloons, the standard shape,” but Ritchie pointed out that the “Northern Flights” balloon, the one with the Northern Lights, is called a “runner.”

“A lot of competition pilots get racers because they can climb quickly, maneuver, hit targets and descend much faster than standard balloons. When you see world competition flights, you’ll see that 95% of them are runner-shaped balls. If I were to get into more serious competition, I would have a ball like this, but I’m at a point in my career where I just like to fly.

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Ritchie’s next stop is at the 50th Anniversary Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Oct. 1-9. It will include more than 600 hot air balloons, of which at least 100 should be of special shapes.

“I fly a balloon for a dairy farm that’s shaped like a big dairy cow, called Arabelle. It’s a massive balloon three times the volume of the ‘Emily’ balloon that I fly. We’ve been flying it since 1989 and it’s a fan favorite,” Ritchie said.

For more information on the Heritage Inn International Balloon Festival, visit the website: www.heritageinninternationalballoonfestival.com

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