Derby Festival is the two weeks before the Kentucky Derby, and in Louisville, everything is a race. Runners run the Mini-Marathon. All's fair in love and steamboat racing in the Great Steamboat Race. Waiters and waitresses compete over an obstacle course to spill the least amount of wine in the Run for the Rose, while students lure their whiskered steeds with Cheerios to win the Run for the Rodents. The Great Balloon Race is a hare and hound competition hosting 51 hot air balloons this year, whose pilots try to judge the speed and wind direction aloft to follow the hare balloon and drop a bag of Bluegrass grass seed in a designated spot.
Since I am not fond of fighting through large crowds, I've never been a great participant in the Derby Festival, but this year I made an exception and had a terrific time at the Balloon Glow. On the evening before the Great Balloon Race, all the competitors bring their balloons to the Fairgrounds (the starting point for the race the next morning) where they fire up their burners and fill the balloons with enough hot air to inflate, while not actually taking off the ground. When the sun sets, these balloons rise up like brightly colored mushrooms in the night. The Oldies radio station provided music that I actually knew, and many of the pilots would light up in time with the music. My son came along, and I think he was amazed at how excited I got. We talked to a man trying to hold his balloon on the field with a rope. He said he was "walking the balloon," and it pulled him around just like an exuberant dog. Extra police are posted on the Interstate to keep traffic moving along.
I'm taking a photography class now, and decided to make the Balloon Glow the site for my class homework of taking pictures of people. There were many others with their good cameras, and even more people trying to record the moment with their cell phone cameras. I think mine came out better, of course. This may have been the first year to help for this youngster, as he struggled to keep the mouth open while hot air blew into it. By 10:00, the Energizer batteries had run down, and this small balloon fan was ready to take a rest.