Friday, January 18, 2008

Balloons, many events highlight Feb. 1-3 Hot Air Affair

Hudson Star-Observer
Published Friday, January 18, 2008

Balloon launches highlight a weekend of activities at the 19th annual Hot Air Affair Friday-Sunday, Feb. 1-3. Mass ascension launches are planned for 7:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 2 and 3. An optional flight is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday, and the popular Moon Glow at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

This year’s Hot Air Affair theme is “Mardi Gras…Balloons & All That Jazz,” according to HAA President Evy Nerbonne. “Our event sponsors have really embraced the theme this year. We have more than 30 restaurants, bars, pubs and retailers doing special menu items, beverage specials and retail events highlighting the New Orleans carnival theme. It’s the weekend for jambalaya, hurricanes, King Cake and lots of beads.”


The familiar red, white and blue ReMax hot air balloon has the longest history of Hudson appearances by a commercial balloon. It’s being sponsored by ReMax North Central and ReMax Associates Plus Inc., the owner of the ReMax realty company in Hudson.

Stephen Sinnen, Shakopee, Minn., will pilot the 105,000-cubic-foot aerostat in Hudson. He’s a 24-year pilot, logging more than 1,500 hours in balloons. Sinnen has flown balloons all over the United States and Mexico.

“Some of my more interesting flights have been dropping skydivers at the World Free Fall Convention in Quincy, Ill.,” Sinnen said. He has also carried passengers for Rainbow Ryders, the official passenger carriers for the balloon fiesta in Albuquerque, N.M.

This year’s other commercial balloons are U.S. Bank and M&I Bank. Special-shape balloons include Mr. Biddle, Rubber Duckie and Garfield. The Hot Air Affair, presented by M&I Bank, is one of the largest winter hot air ballooning events in the country.

“Everyone loves the balloons,” said balloon coordinator Carla Timmerman in describing the aerostats. “Commercial and special-shape balloons are what sets us apart from many other rallies.

The Hot Air Affair annually attracts corporate balloons from throughout the country because of the winter flying opportunity.

Pre-event activities start this week and Hot Air Affair isn’t just a spectator event! Here are some options for individual or family participation, some requesting advance registration.

  • Hot Air Affair kick-off Friday, Jan. 18, at Dick’s Bar & Grill, 111 Walnut St. Participants could win trivia contest prizes by correctly answering questions about Mardi Gras and the Hot Air Affair.
  • A family affair at YMCA camp St. Croix, Saturday, Jan. 19, from 1-4 p.m. The event includes hiking, sledding, orienteering and other outdoor activities, what it’s like to pilot and be a ground crew member for a hot air balloon, plus crafts. Aamodt’s Hot Air Balloon Rides will inflate their balloon and pilot John Lewis will offer a ground school for anyone wanting to learn how to crew for a hot air balloon. Paddy Ryan’s Irish Pub will offer beef and Guiness pie and potato/leek soup samples, and the camp will provide s’mores. All activities are free and no pre-registration is required.
  • Candlelight cross country skiing and hiking, Friday, Jan. 25, 6-9 p.m. at Willow River State Park. The event includes two miles of candle-lit ski trails and a mile of hiking trails. Free refreshments will be provided by Art Doyle’s Spokes & Pedals at the Nature Center. Hot air balloon pilots will provide a hot air balloon glow at 6:30 p.m., weather permitting. Hot Air Affair Geocaching Bash coordinate sheets will be available.
  • Phipps family day activity, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2-4 p.m. at Phipps Center for the Arts. Children of all ages and their families can create costumes to wear as they walk behind “The Phipps is for Kids” banner for the Torchlight Parade Friday, Feb. 1. Call (715) 386-2305 to sign up for the free class.
  • Hot Air Affair Geocaching Bash, Friday-Sunday, Feb. 1-3. Pick up coordinate sheets at M&I Bank or the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce after Jan. 28. Geocache all weekend and turn in your log sheet to M&I Bank or mail it to PO Box 744, Hudson WI 54016 by Feb. 10 for your chance to win prizes.
  • Photo contest, sponsored by PressEnter. Send in your best photos of pre-events or activities Hot Air Affair weekend and you could win a prize. Entries will be accepted through Feb. 29 at PressEnter Internet Business Center, 206 Second St., Hudson.
  • Torchlight Parade, Friday, Feb. 1, 7:08 p.m., in downtown Hudson. This year’s theme is “Mardi Gras…Balloons & All That Jazz.” Parade participants should line up at 6 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Bank parking lot — the parade travels down Second Street and Walnut Street to Lakefront Park. Prizes will be awarded for best overall parade unit, the best “Mardi Gras” unit, the best pilot unit and the best kazoo marching band. Business and individual parade units should pre-register by calling Linda White at (715) 386-8332 or (715) 381-2050. Participants are reminded that no items can be thrown from parade units, and beads and other treats for parade watchers must be delivered street side.
  • Marketplace and craft fair, Saturday, Feb. 2, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at E.P. Rock Elementary School. Booth space is still available; sign up with Char Hipsher at (715) 381-5534. Fee charged for participation.
  • Winter Sports Olympics including volleyball in the snow, darts and horseshoes, Saturday, Feb. 2, 9 a.m. at GB Curlys, Burkhardt. Prizes will be awarded; entry fees are $40 per team for volleyball, $25 per team for darts and horseshoes. Call sponsor GB Curlys at (715) 386-5233 to sign up.
  • Pets at the Plaza, Saturday, Feb. 2, starting at 10 a.m. at Angel’s Pet World at Plaza 94. The annual pet costume contest starts at 11 a.m., and prizes will be awarded for the best Mardi Gras costumes. First prize is $50. Call (715) 386-6740 for contest details and to sign up your pet.
  • Smooshboarding competition, Saturday, Feb. 2, at 1 p.m. at E.P. Rock Elementary School. Resco Print Graphics sponsors the wackiest winter sport at Hot Air Affair when four-person teams on the same pair of smooshboards race a figure-8 course. Entry fee is $10 per team; sign up is at (715) 386-7300. Prizes for best team in competition plus best “Mardi Gras … Balloons & All That Jazz” costumes. Smooshboards are available that day.
  • Thirteenth annual chili cook-off, Sunday, Feb. 3, at 2 p.m. at Dick’s Bar & Grill. Enter your favorite warmup chili concoction and win cash, trophies and prizes. Call (715) 386-5222 for details and registration by Feb. 2; space is limited.

    Complete Hot Air Affair event brochures are available at local businesses and the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau office. Information is also available at The Hot Air Affair, presented by M&I Bank, is a non-profit community volunteer organization. Anyone wanting to volunteer to sell merchandise, crew for hot air balloons or help in any way should call (715) 381-2050 or (888) 247-2332 or email

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