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Pilots take flight as Adirondack Balloon Festival opens

Pilots take flight as Adirondack Balloon Festival opens

GLENS FALLS — One helium balloon can make all the difference for the Adirondack Balloon Festival.

The balloon is named the pi ball, which is abbreviated from pilot ball. Hot-air balloonists release the pi ball into the air to determine the wind speed.

At Crandall Park on Thursday, for the first day of the Balloon Festival, balloonists want the wind to go east to northeast because there are open lands like the golf course in that direction. If the winds are too fast, it can be dangerous, but if winds are traveling north, there may be hot air balloons potentially going into Lake George.

Peter Griswold kept a keen eye on the wind patterns in the area. During the pilots’ meeting on Thursday before the balloons began to fill, Griswold gave the report of Albany’s airport wind speeds and Warren County’s. The surface winds were going north, but upper winds were going 6 to 8 mph east.

That turn was enough for some pilots to take off. In all, about 18 balloons took off from the park Thursday.

Griswold, who assists the Balloon Festival, understands the importance of wind speeds and everything going right. Last year, when he took off from the Warren County airport, his balloon ended up in an active logging site on the west side of the Hudson River.

“Ballooning is always about advanced planning,” Griswold said. “We plan ahead, looking at all the weather forecasts that we can get from different airports to make sure we are taking off at a good location to make sure we are taking off downwind where we can land.”

The director of the festival, Mark Donahue, said he was excited to see everything come together. He said that 24 balloons were present at Crandall Park, and festival officials had expected only up to 20.

He complimented the city of Glens Falls for its support.

WNYT-TV meteorologist Bob Kovachick spoke with The Post-Star about upcoming weather for the event. The festival will be at the airport Friday through Sunday morning, then cap off the weekend at Crandall Park again on Sunday afternoon.

Kovachick said winds are not in the balloons’ favor.

He projected the wind speeds on Friday will be around 10 to 15 mph. Saturday morning may face some wind, around 10 mph or less, but he believes it will be calm for Saturday night and all of Sunday.

The ideal wind speed for the event is around 3 to 5 mph at the surface, the festival’s website states.

At the airport, the special shape balloons will be present, which includes this year’s pair of penguins, Tom Cat and Terry the Mouse and a Brazilian duo: Bidu, a blue cartoon dog, and Saxon, a large saxophone balloon.

Andrew David Kuczkowski is the education reporter. Andrew can be reached at 518-742-3354. Follow Andrew on Twitter: @ByKuczkowski.

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