Breathtaking views, joy of flight highlight Piscataquis Heritage Balloon Festival

Posted June 04, 2013, at 5:30 a.m.
Balloonists touch down in a field off the Center Range Road in Dover-Foxcroft after leaving from the Charles A. Chase Memorial airport on Friday during the first morning flight of the Piscataquis Heritage Hot Air Balloon Festival on Friday.
Balloonists touch down in a field off the Center Range Road in Dover-Foxcroft after leaving from the Charles A. Chase Memorial airport on Friday during the first morning flight of the Piscataquis Heritage Hot Air Balloon Festival on Friday. Buy Photo
Three of the expected 10 balloons that will be at the Piscataquis Heritage Hot Air Balloon Festival float over Dover-Foxcroft on Friday. The festival runs through Sunday with live bands and movies as well as food, artisans, tradesmen, educational demonstrations, agricultural displays and children's activities.
Three of the expected 10 balloons that will be at the Piscataquis Heritage Hot Air Balloon Festival float over Dover-Foxcroft on Friday. The festival runs through Sunday with live bands and movies as well as food, artisans, tradesmen, educational demonstrations, agricultural displays and children's activities. Buy Photo
After a scheduled balloon glow slated for Friday night was canceled due to an approaching storm, balloonist Walter Crites, foreground, and others set up their baskets and fired the burners in a  demonstration of the power of heat used to lift the balloons at the Piscataquis Heritage Hot Air Balloon Festival on Friday.
After a scheduled balloon glow slated for Friday night was canceled due to an approaching storm, balloonist Walter Crites, foreground, and others set up their baskets and fired the burners in a demonstration of the power of heat used to lift the balloons at the Piscataquis Heritage Hot Air Balloon Festival on Friday.
Balloonist Mike Lavoie of New Hampshire gets a hand from his ground crew as he is pulled out of a field and closer to a site where he can break the balloon down and transport it back to the Piscataquis Heritage Hot Air Balloon Festival in Dover-Foxcroft after a flight on Friday.
Balloonist Mike Lavoie of New Hampshire gets a hand from his ground crew as he is pulled out of a field and closer to a site where he can break the balloon down and transport it back to the Piscataquis Heritage Hot Air Balloon Festival in Dover-Foxcroft after a flight on Friday. Buy Photo
Balloonist Mike Lavoie of New Hampshire and his ground crew break down his experimental balloon before transporting it back to the Piscataquis Heritage Hot Air Balloon Festival in Dover-Foxcroft after a flight on Friday.
Balloonist Mike Lavoie of New Hampshire and his ground crew break down his experimental balloon before transporting it back to the Piscataquis Heritage Hot Air Balloon Festival in Dover-Foxcroft after a flight on Friday. Buy Photo
Balloonist Beth Hamilton of Rehoboth, Mass., prepares to disassemble her balloon after a flight during the Piscataquis Heritage Hot Air Balloon Festival in Dover-Foxcroft on Friday.
Balloonist Beth Hamilton of Rehoboth, Mass., prepares to disassemble her balloon after a flight during the Piscataquis Heritage Hot Air Balloon Festival in Dover-Foxcroft on Friday. Buy Photo
Balloonists float over a cemetery on the Center Range Road in Dover-Foxcroft after leaving from the Charles A. Chase Memorial airport on Friday during the first morning flight of the Piscataquis Heritage Hot Air Balloon Festival.
Balloonists float over a cemetery on the Center Range Road in Dover-Foxcroft after leaving from the Charles A. Chase Memorial airport on Friday during the first morning flight of the Piscataquis Heritage Hot Air Balloon Festival. Buy Photo
Balloonist Joe Hamilton, right, gets help from ground crew member Joe Stupak, left, as the pair breaks down Hamilton's balloon in the yard of a Dover Foxcroft resident after a flight during the Piscataquis Heritage Hot Air Balloon Festival in Dover-Foxcroft on Friday.
Balloonist Joe Hamilton, right, gets help from ground crew member Joe Stupak, left, as the pair breaks down Hamilton's balloon in the yard of a Dover Foxcroft resident after a flight during the Piscataquis Heritage Hot Air Balloon Festival in Dover-Foxcroft on Friday. Buy Photo
First-time fliers Johnathan Pratt and Amber Simmons, both of Greenville, get their glasses refilled with champagne by balloonist Joe Hamilton of Rehoboth, Mass., after a flight during the Piscataquis Heritage Hot Air Balloon Festival in Dover-Foxcroft on Friday.
First-time fliers Johnathan Pratt and Amber Simmons, both of Greenville, get their glasses refilled with champagne by balloonist Joe Hamilton of Rehoboth, Mass., after a flight during the Piscataquis Heritage Hot Air Balloon Festival in Dover-Foxcroft on Friday. Buy Photo
Lettering on the back of a balloonist's chase truck offers a warning to any motorist that might be following the ground team. Ten balloonists and their chase teams took part in this weekend's Piscataquis Heritage Hot Air Balloon Festival in Dover-Foxcroft  on Friday.
Lettering on the back of a balloonist's chase truck offers a warning to any motorist that might be following the ground team. Ten balloonists and their chase teams took part in this weekend's Piscataquis Heritage Hot Air Balloon Festival in Dover-Foxcroft on Friday. Buy Photo

Maine native Joe Hamilton was framing a window on his house in Rehoboth, Mass., when he saw a man in a balloon fly past. Hamilton recalls the brief conversation that followed.

“Hey, how ya doing?” the man said as he floated past.

Hamilton’s wife, Beth, said the man was so close the couple thought the balloon was going to land in their yard.

On Hamilton’s drive to work the next day he saw the same balloon again. This time he gave chase.

Hamilton ended up late for work that morning but figures it was a worthwhile side trip.

After catching up the balloon when it landed, Hamilton asked how he could get a ride. The balloonist handed him a business card.

Hamilton tried to purchase a ride in that balloon five times only to be thwarted by the weather. On the sixth try, Joe and Beth took their first ride. And after the ride, they agreed that they might want to become balloon pilots.

A 10-day course in California had Beth flying high.

“It was magical. Remove yourself from real life and go into a storybook,” she said.

That’s the sentiment that spawned the couple’s business, Balloon Fantasies, 30 years ago. And the couple is still flying.

The Piscataquis Heritage Balloon Festival this past weekend gave locals the same chance that the Hamiltons had three decades ago and the husband-and-wife team was happy to share their love of ballooning with all who attended.

Beth Hamilton softly touched down in a field east of the Charles A. Chase Jr. Memorial Field on Friday with four passengers, all first-time fliers.

“It was breathtaking. Once you were up there the view was gorgeous,” said Amber Simmons of Greenville.

Balloon passengers got to help take apart the balloon, basket and burner. Then the 70-foot-tall balloon was folded and stowed in a bag. After that, it was off to the airport for a glass or two of champagne to toast the flight.

Joe popped the cork. Beth offered the balloonist prayer:

May the winds welcome you with softness. May the sun bless you with his warm hands. May you fly so high and so well that God joins you in laughter and sets you gently back into the loving arms of Mother Earth.

Beth finished with “Champagne, breakfast of balloonists.”

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