ALOFT – Hot Air Balloon Race – Simpsonville SC

Cara Zara Hoop Dancer will be performing at Aloft Freedom Weekend on Sunday May 16 2013.

Cara Zara Hoop Dancer performed at Aloft Freedom Weekend.

Memorial Day weekend I entertained with my spinning hula-hoops in the Kids Zone at Aloft Hot Air Balloon Races in Simpsonville SC. I didn’t have much info about the festival when I was first hired and until yesterday morning I thought I was doing a gig for the hotel chain “Aloft”. I  was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was a big hot air balloon festival.

What a cute picture. Always my favorite part of a festival is sharing hoops with the kids and hearing the cutest questions and the " Cara Zara watch this!" over and over again.

What a cute picture. Always my favorite part of a festival is sharing hoops with the kids and hearing the cutest questions and the ” Cara Zara watch this!” over and over again.

Naturally I went bragging on Facebook about my upcoming festival. One of my friends noticed my post and wrote that he was running “crew” (?? ~ Silly me. I didn’t know what that meant at the time) and we’d try and meet up.

On the way into the festival I had an extra ticket that I didn’t need and the guard asked if he could have it because inevitably someone is always short a ticket and my generosity would make someone’s day. As I gladly handed him my extra ticket he told me that I would be blessed that day and something wonderful would happen for me. Cool – I’ll take all the “wonderful” I can get!

So off I went to the Kids Zone and a few hours later I met my friend Aubrey. Little did I know that I would end up having the most magical evening in my life! I got to go down on the balloon field and help put up a hot air balloon with his friend Clark Harbold and their team. Then as “balloon chasers” we jumped into a pick-up truck following the balloon to meet up with Clark when he landed. It felt like being a tornado chaser – but a whole lot safer (at least that’s what I said at the time to Aubrey). As Clark was trying to make a landing in a tight spot to give another lucky person (maybe me?!) a ride the hot air balloon had an unfortunate encounter with some pine trees on a golf course. No one was hurt but the balloon took a beating and couldn’t fly anymore and the race was over for us.

When I finally left the park I saw the same security guard from earlier in the day and told him about my amazing adventure and said “You were right!”

I wish my camera phone could capture the majesty and magnitude of these beautiful balloons. The scale is so enormous that it’s impossible to grab it in a picture but I still want to share the moment. If you click on a picture it will open to a larger image but you have to hit the back button to return to the post.

Starting up the fans and filling the huge cavity of the balloon with air.

Starting up the fans and filling the huge cavity of the balloon with air.

Clark's balloon continues to increase in size as two fans pump air into it.

The balloon increasing in the size as Aubrey circles and checks her out.

Clark's balloon is getting fresh and kissing another hot air balloon.

Clark’s balloon getting sassy and kissing another hot air balloon.

And she continues to grow...

And she continues to grow…

Surrounding balloons getting pumped up for the flight.

Surrounding balloons getting pumped up for the flight.

Getting ready for lift off.

Getting ready for lift off.

And up they go!

And up they go!

Other balloons waiting their turn for take-off.

Other balloons waiting their turn for take-off.

And more balloons waiting for take-off.

And more balloons getting ready for flight. The shadows on the ground are from the balloons behind me. That’s a big shadow!

I don't have a picture of the hot air balloon crash was which scary but I do have a picture of Captain Clark with his arch nemesis the pine tree patch on the golf course where he attempted to land.

Captain Clark with an arm of  his arch nemesis the pine tree stuffed in his shirt. I declare Clark the winner because he kept his composure the entire time.

Team Clark Harbold girls in the hot air balloon basket.

Team Clark Harbold women in the hot air balloon basket.

Cara Zara with Captain Clark. I officially get to add hot air "Balloon Chaser" to my quirky resume.

Cara Zara with Captain Clark. I officially get to add hot air “Balloon Chaser” to my quirky resume of marketable skills 🙂

Thanking Captain Clark for an adventure I'll never forget.

Thanking Captain Clark for an adventure I’ll never forget.

Happiest Hot Air Balloon I've ever seen!

Happiest Hot Air Balloon I’ve ever seen and exactly how I felt after the race!

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