Festival, fire, fundraisers and kilts

I shot the first launch of the first Great Falls Balloon Festival 20 years ago from an experimental airplane that took off from a short, grassy field that sloped downhill.  A scary takeoff for sure, but a memorable experience, especially the sight of balloons hovering over the Androscoggin River between Lewiston and Auburn.  I have had many memorable experiences and photos since then, but that was certainly one of the most memorable.  This past weekend, I was lucky enough to fly with Honi Glover in Amazing Grace for the Friday launch that kicked off the 20th festival.  Honi is a former truck driver who now is inspired by God.  It was a fun, educational and uplifting experience to say the least.

Check out the video from my flight.

Saturday morning I dropped off Ryan, my oldest son at 5:30 at the vehicle bridge leading to Simard-Payne Memorial Park where the balloons launched.  He is still helping out the Army Cadets even though he has graduated from LHS and is heading to basic training in Texas for the Air Force soon.  He has matured into a fine young man who Ann and I could not be more proud of.  He and some of his fellow cadets volunteer every year.  They arrive before sunrise and don’t leave until 11:00 at night.  Three very long days for the boys.

I did not stay for the launch,  my colleague,  Jose Leiva covered the morning launch as I had to go to the Topsham Fairgrounds to shoot photos and video of Mark LaFlamme wearing a kilt and taking part in some of the activities at the Highland Games.  Check out next week’s Sunday paper for that fun story and the video on our website.

After coming back from Topsham,  I downloaded the video and headed over the the balloon festival.  I wondered around, shooting the different events, food, games, rides, music, kids playing inside an inflated balloon and more.  I then spent over an hour manning the live camera that Pattie Reaves had set up to cover all the launches.   She probably worked harder and longer than anybody this weekend.  She is a trooper.  I loved being able to zoom in and out at the field where kids were playing,  people interacting, and all the fun that was going on as people hung out waiting for the balloons to take off.    

When they did, I shot the first wave that took off and then parted the mass of people as I hurried over to the parking garage by Festival Plaza in Auburn in hopes of shooting the shaped balloons rising with the Lewiston skyline in the background.  The light, clouds and everything was perfect.   However, the wind was still too much for the shaped balloons to launch, so I headed back to Lewiston.  Several balloons were tethered to the ground and were going up and down, giving rides.

The night sky and balloons lit up made for a cool photo.    Headed back to the office and processed my photos and downloaded the video.  Pattie suggested that I hold off publishing a video as it would get lost in the morning live coverage, and I had already worked a 12 hour day.  Instead, we met up at Gritty’s for a couple beers that were well deserved.  We didn’t stay long as we both had yet another long day ahead of us on Sunday.

Sunday morning was spectacular.  I was psyched to get some great photos and video, but just after I had taken a few of the first balloons launching, I heard a wave of sirens.  There is a different sound when they are going to something for real and when they know something is really on fire.  I looked over toward Auburn and a big column of black smoke was rising in the air.   Shooting as I went, I made my way over to the Lewiston fire truck stationed at the festival.  I was told that they had just called in a second alarm for an apartment building on Second Street in Auburn.   Damnit, not now I thought.  I shot a few more photos and jumped in my car and headed over.  The fire was nearly out by the time I got over there and there was not much visible damage to the exterior, but I shot some video and photos.

 By the time I got back to Lewiston, the balloons were  long gone.  Of course.
I headed to the office and downloaded my video and posted a few photos of the fire online.   By 10:00 I had the video uploaded onto our website.  I started working on my video from Sat and this morning.  I had a 1:00 assignment at Martindale for a LHS hockey team golf fundraiser.  On the way, I stopped at the duck race fundraiser in the canal next to Bates Mill to have something different from just balloons.

Click here to watch the fire video.

I got to Martindale and took some photos of the event and headed over to Festival Plaza where a jazz band was playing.  I needed more background music for my video.

I headed back to the office and processed the duck race photos and the golf fundraiser, downloaded the additional video and finished editing the video from Sat and Sunday.

Click here to watch the video from Sat and Sunday at the balloon festival.

It was nearly time for the evening launch, but I had already worked another 12 hour day and was told that I didn’t have to go to the PM launch if they launched in the morning.  I had a decent variety of photos from the morning, so I was done after yet another long day.  The weekend was finally over and I had my fill of balloons.


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