Wayne Standefer, the head pilot at Balloon Adventures, is well versed in Dallas-area scenery and topography, knowledge that helps him regale passengers with information during flights. The adventure begins as the aircraft is brought to life before your eyes. Once his balloon reaches its full height—more than 10 stories—Standefer invites you inside the tightly woven wicker basket to soar above rooftops and trees and dip low over fields and rivers. Total flight time is usually around an hour, though the whole experience can take three times as long from start to finish.
Balloon Adventures also charters its services for weddings, arranges surprise flights for special occasions, and offers instruction in specific tasks such as rigging the balloon, navigating in-flight, and shooing away flocks of paper airplanes. In addition, the company participates in hot-air-balloon festivals, where clouds of bright purple, orange, and yellow balloons fill the daytime sky or illuminate the festival grounds at night.
Four Winds Aviation's team of veteran sky jockeys vaults passengers skyward for white-knuckle stunt rides and easygoing introductory flights. Intent on maintaining high safety and training standards, Four Winds’ seasoned flight instructors all hold high-level ratings and have earned hundreds of flying hours from service in the military, careers with commercial airlines, and years of entering aerobatic competitions. On any given day, the crew can be found imparting their passion for soaring upon pupils during training courses ranging from basic aerobatics to discovery introductory flights and flight-training courses. Students spend time on terra firma reviewing safety basics before taking flight in one of Four Winds’ meticulously maintained cloud slicers including Piper Archer airplanes, Pitts S2B aerobatic biplanes, and saddle-equipped flying squirrels. Along with beginner and recreational courses, the instructors also help more experienced flyers accrue the hours, experience, and know-how required to work toward sport, instrument, and commercial pilot's licenses.
Boasting more than 26 years in the aviation industry, Breeze Balloons' pilots expertly harness the wind to soar riders over north and east Texas in multihued hot-air vehicles. Pilots helm various sized balloons, which accommodate twosomes or let groups as large as 30 high-five Texan clouds. Pilots also do double duty as safety-training instructors, helping other hot air balloon pilots maintain Breeze Balloons' zero-safety-issue record.
Offering sunrise and sunset excursions, Heart of Texas Hot Air Balloons floats riders through the clouds on brightly colored, eight-story-tall buoys of heated air. After venturing to the launch site, guests will meet the day's FAA-certified captain, crew, and up to 24 fellow passengers. Air wranglers impart a formal safety briefing as balloons slowly take shape, filling with hot air supplied by area high-school debate teams. A blast of burners lifts leisure seekers into the air, drifting through the blue sky for approximately an hour, bandied about by the day's prevailing winds. Balloons will be followed on the ground by chase crews who rendezvous at the chosen landing site for a congratulatory postflight celebration.
Whether grounded or airborne, balloons dominate the festivities at Old Celina Park. On the ground, the vibrantly patterned balloons glow and undulate as propane burners pump them with hot air. These bright shapes slowly diminish to colorful specks in the sky as the balloons ascend, leaving the fairgrounds far behind.
With this canopy of colored dots overhead, the festival?s entertainment comes alive as musical acts such as the Emerald City Band performing on Friday and Eleven Hundred Springs performing on Saturday take the stage. Pristine cars and trucks made as early as the 1930s shine at the classic-car show, inflatables promote adrenaline rushes along with helicopter rides, human hamster balls, a 200 ft. zip line, a western show, more than 100 vendors, and carnival rides and dog adoptions in Adoption Alley tug on heartstrings. In the evening, when the balloons that have served as a backdrop all day finally land, each pilot contributes to the balloon glow, punctuating the dusk with jets of flame from their burners to illuminate their vessels.