It’s 6:45 on a clear, cool morning early September morning. A perfect morning for ballooning. The air is absolutely still, gray skies as the sun rises and folks slowly gather along the dusty ridge above Anne Morrison Park. The voice of well known TV personality Larry Gephart, wafts through the trees. “ A great day to be in Boise…The sun will be coming up soon….”
We can hear the propane fires starting up that lift the balloons. Each balloon makes a loud roaring sound when the propane burner is lit. The folks on the ridge don’t see anything yet, we get excited as we hear the high pitched growling of the flames filling the balloons. The promise of balloons launching soon.
There are exclamations of surprise as the first balloon, red white and blue peaks above the pine trees below. In just minutes, the sky is full of balloons and more are rising out of the trees. The woman next to me is counting out loud with her boys. We are up to 32 and finally 48 total.
Boiseians have seen the balloons driving to work and school. They pull their cars over and crowd up along the barrier bounding ridge joining the pre-dawn spectators. The balloons are in the air for only minutes, timing is everything. But for a magical moment, all of us on the ridge stand in awe, glad to be alive, outdoors and soaking in the colors, sunrise, and truly understanding the beauty of the earth
I love the balloons. Boise, the balloons and I have a long tradition. When I first moved to Boise in 1996, my son Scott was just a little over two years old. He is 21 and half now. I remember right after we moved we were living in a very small house in West Boise. I was very lonely for my friends I’d left in Wyoming. I was in the kitchen making breakfast and Scott was in living room watching TV. Scott ran in grabbed my hand and shouted, “Ba-loon, Ba-loon”, literally pulling me into the living room. There in the front yard of our rental house was a balloon coming down. Amazing–a total surprise, a true delight, from out of nowhere.
We moved to the foothills soon after. While Scott was in preschool, we would rise early, go down to lower foothills and watch for the balloons. We would chase them in the car as they flew through the air and watch them land. One year we caught the pink energizer bunny, another year Scott was swallowed in the jaws of a ferocious-looking green T-Rex as it collapsed to the ground. Scott was delighted when he emerged from its jaws unscathed.
On clear days, from my kitchen window, I frequently see a single balloon out floating far off in the distance. I have been up in a balloon once and found the experience exhilarating. I understand these solo adventurers seeking perspective on life, experiencing a rare sense of freedom because they are truly from desks, phones, offices and traffic noise, sharing the skies with feathered creatures, but mostly riding alone.
Mammoth homes have been built on the foothills where Scott and I would sit. My son has gone off to college. Alone now, I jump out of bed in my sweats to get down to see the balloons rising. Every year during the Boise Balloon Festival, I experience pure joy that I am alive in Boise, Idaho and able to experience this exact moment.