Hometown Hot Air Balloonist Ready in Quechee


The kickoff for the 34th annual Quechee Hot Air Balloon Festival didn't get off the ground today. That's because winds were to strong for the balloons.

There's about 21 balloonists there who are ready to go up, three from Quechee itself and one who's been there longer than any of them.

"It's a little Mecca for ballooning," balloonist Gary Lovell says.

Lovell must have it pretty good then because he calls this holy land of hot air home after ballooning all around the country.

"But this is the prettiest place I've ever flown," Lovell said.

"Which is why I'm here."

Lovell first came to the Quechee Festival in 1987 then started coming back frequently to give balloon rides. He ended up moving to Quechee and now holds the streak for most festivals in a row at 27.

"For me it's a chance for other balloonists that I've known for years to come play at my house," Lovell said.

For Lovell it's fun for his friends to come to his home turf but for this community it's also good they get lots of visitors and a big boost to the economy.

"This brings in a million dollars into the community," festival co-chair Ken Alton said.

Alton also calls this place home. He watches as around 15,000 people visit for the event and some even go up for a ride.

"It's one of the things they'll never forget in their life," Alton said.

Lovell says just as much.

"They always ask 'what's it like to go ballooning?' and I say 'it's really hard to describe' and then I take them and I ask 'what's it like to go ballooning', 'well it's really hard to describe.'"

Because of the wind today we couldn't even show you today what it looked like so maybe you'll just have to come and experience it.

Lovell says he'll be around.

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