The annual hot air balloon festival in Guangzhou features hot air balloons

Hot air balloon pilots put on a show on the ground on Friday morning as weather demanded the first of five planned launches be grounded

CANTON, Ohio — Hot air balloon pilots put on a ground show Friday morning in Canton, kicking off the 37th annual Balloon Classic and the first of many official Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival events.

The ‘Hidden Shamrock’ balloon crew were one of dozens to inflate their beautiful balloons, as the first of five launches scheduled throughout the festival weekend had to be grounded due to dangerous weather conditions.

The person responsible for this call is Balloonmeister Paul Suttle, who is married to pilot, Penny, of the ‘Hidden Shamrock’, making this year’s event another family affair for the Suttles who have long been involved in the Balloon Classic. .

Before meeting the Suttles early Friday morning in Canton, I spoke with Paul on Thursday afternoon. He shared with me details about the responsibilities of being the Balloonmeister, how he and Penny got involved in hot air balloon flying, and behind-the-scenes secrets from the perspective of the Balloon Classic pilots.

“It’s a very safe sport,” Paul told me. “It’s the only thing in my whole life – I’ve never experienced anything like it – in the number of smiles it brings, both for us as pilots and for the people around. And every time you look up in the sky [and see a hot air balloon], it just brings you a sense of wonder. How something seven stories tall, weighing several tons, could literally float away from the earth, effortlessly. We call them gentle giants, and that’s why we like to fly them: to make everyone smile.”

Watch my full conversation with 2022 Balloon Classic Balloonmeister Paul Suttle in the player below:

When the conditions are right, the balloons that bring all those smiles during the Balloon Classic take off from Kent State University at Stark and Stark State campuses. Generally, balloons fly north and northeast.

For every balloon in the sky, a ground crew follows each balloon from takeoff to landing. This is important because you cannot direct a hot air balloon. Weather alone determines flight path and altitude.

There is a weather team that goes through a thorough procedure to determine if the balloons can fly before each launch, and Friday morning the winders were not in favor of the pilots.

Pilots come from all over the country to fly in the Balloon Classic, with the furthest traveler this year coming from Arizona. These pilots will have several other chances to climb into the sky, from Friday to Sunday.

A total of 48 balloons will fly in the four other launches scheduled throughout the weekend (weather permitting). Two of them will take place early in the morning on Saturday and Sunday, around 6:30 a.m. This is when the position of the sun creates the best flying conditions, the crew members of the “Hidden Shamrock”. (I was curious why these things always seem to happen so early because we had a 3:30 a.m. wake up call to get from Cleveland to Canton for the scheduled launch this morning!) The other two will happen around 6:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

The event surrounding the launches draws a crowd of around 130,000 to take in the views and enjoy live music, food and drink and fireworks (Saturday nights) on the festival grounds, at Kent State University on the Stark and Stark State campuses. from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Check out the event website, here.

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