April 18, 2014

Elyria
Mostly clear
48°F
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LaGrange Lions Club hosting its first hot air balloon liftoff

LAGRANGE — The LaGrange Lions Club hopes a little hot air will help lift some donations for a good cause.

The club will host its first hot air balloon liftoff Saturday with part of the ride fees benefiting the organization’s efforts to help people in need hear and see better.

PHOTO COURTESY NORTHEAST OHIO BALLOON PILOTS ASSOCIATION
Balloons were floating above New Castle, Pa.

Bev Fox, a Lions Club member, said the collaboration with the Northeast Ohio Balloon Pilots Association was something the club couldn’t pass up. “I’ve done it in the past, and it’s just an awesome and breathtaking experience,” she said. “We thought we’d give the liftoff a try this year and see how it goes.”

The Lions Club will collect 10 percent from each $200 balloon ride. Rides are available per person and last as long as an hour.
Dan Saul, 55, of Rocky River, is one of 130 members from the Northeast Ohio Balloon Pilots Association that will make the trip to LaGrange, and said one flight aboard his balloon can be one heck of an experience.

“I like to take people up to 2,000 feet,” he said. “From there, the cars look like ants. Anything more than that and (the cars) look like fleas.”

The association represents 22 counties throughout Northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania and is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Pilots have to pass the same tests that fixed-wing airplane pilots have, which includes a written exam, numerous lesson hours, a flying test and an oral exam.

Saul said as long as the winds stay below 10 miles per hour, he anticipates more than 20 balloons participating in Saturday’s liftoff.
The balloons will land within a 10-mile radius from their takeoff point in Lions Park in LaGrange, but just where they’ll land was one question Saul couldn’t answer.

“Wherever the winds take us is where we’ll go,” he said. If people don’t want to fly, that’s all right, too.

There will also be food, a 50/50 raffle and a balloon ride raffle to be used the day of the event.

The Lions Club encourages everybody to attend, but would appreciate donations of non-perishable food items, eyeglasses, hearing aids and cash.

Staying on the ground may be the safe alternative, Saul said, but the views from the balloons offer something everybody should experience at least once.

“Three-fourths of my enjoyment is sharing the experience with others,” he said. “I heard a 6-year-old describe (the view) best: ‘It looks pretend, but it’s really not.’”

Contact Melissa Linebrink at 329-7155 or mlinebrink@chroniclet.com