Beneath the looming curve of a balloon rippling from the heat of a 12-million BTU propane burner, FAA-certified Lighter Than Air pilot and mechanic Layne Wolters takes hot air balloons soaring into the Missouri skies with the skills only years of experience can build. Possessing more than three decades of involvement with the larger-than-life balloons, Wolters mans daily flights at Hard Times Ballooning, ascending at sunrise and 2 1/2 hours before sunset for the best views of superheroes flying to and from home in their street clothes.
Pro Fitness is a sprawling athletic facility, with rows of professional exercise equipment, racks of free weights, and a private cardio theater. Within workout studios, certified trainers lead an array of group fitness classes, including yoga, Zumba, and boot camp. The instructors also offer personal-training sessions, tailoring workouts to accommodate each client's unique abilities and goals.
In its nine years as a professional theater company, the Maples Repertory Theatre has expanded its production schedule from three to six full-scale shows, as well as staging occasional cabaret concerts. "No one really expects a town the size of Macon to support professional theatre," says Artistic Director Todd Davison. "We are proving that great theatre is valued by people even if they don't live in a metropolitan area." The company produces its shows at the historic Royal Theatre, named because of the moat that once encircled the VIP seats. Built in 1889, the intimate, 400-seat venue was originally an opera house and underwent an extensive renovation in the 1990s.
Battle Creek Paintball's six fields see prismatic warfare in the form of recreational woodsball to fast-paced speedball year-round, rain or shine. On any of the five outdoor woodland fields, squads of players mimic firefights with flanking maneuvers and extended periods of playing dead. An indoor urban-assault course captures the adrenaline rush of room-to-room fighting, and the speedball course matches competitive-level excitement with mirrored bunker layouts and closely refereed games. With normal admission, the staff provides Tippmann 98 markers and all the protective equipment needed to survive a mural to the face.:m]
With close to 1,000 jumps packed beneath its collective parachute, Skydive Mid America grants humans the gift of temporary flight during jumps that place safety above all else. More than six years worth of experience backs the company's airborne adventures, which reach heights of up to 9,500 feet and include supersonic free falls that last 30 to 40 seconds. Skydive Mid-America remains open seven days per week until 7 p.m., leaving open a nightly window for sunset jumps.
When a school of music also contains a live-performance venue, it’s an indicator that the lessons stick. Such is the case with the Columbia Academy of Music, where private practice rooms sit just steps from The Bridge, a club accustomed to welcoming musical talent from down the street and around the country. A stage within range of instruction can inspire even the most stage-frightened students to step into the spotlight, where they’ll get the hands-on, feet-on stage experience that renders books worthless.
The academy’s tuneful staffers are no strangers to this kind of public performance—some instructors have shared the stage with the likes of Chuck Berry, Sting, and Hank Williams III—but many also are experts in what goes on behind the music. In lessons tailored for all ages, skill sets, and music-making manners, the school strengthens the confidence of budding musicians in once-a-week sessions. Instrument instruction infuses students with techniques across a range of musical genres; audio-production and engineering courses teach students how to make solid records and tolerate most singers’ misguided requests for more Steak-Umms in the monitor.