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Thursday, June 23, 2005 9:24:38 AM - Monroe Ohio

June 22, 2005




Old McDonald’s Farm  and a huge Soccer Ball will join the competitive hot air balloon pilots as they float over Middletown during the Ohio Challenge Hot Air Balloon Festival on July 22, 23, 24.  Except for the Farm balloon which is there strictly to entertain the crowd, the other 29 balloon pilots, including the soccer ball, are competing for $5,000 prize money, other prizes and point standings in their sport.


Morning flights on Saturday and Sunday will launch off-site and fly into the Smith Park/Hook Field airport target site. Evening flights on Friday, Saturday and Sunday will launch from the festival site and fly to targets elsewhere in the community.


The competitive event sanctioned by the North American Balloon Association involves pilots attempting to maneuver their balloons near enough to targets to drop a weighted marker with their pilot number on it as near as possible to the center of the thirty-foot “X” target spread on the ground. The pilot whose marker lands closest to the center gets the most points toward winning the overall competition and their national ranking.  Each flight may involve several target points.  Balloon pilots read the weather signs and wind speeds and directions to heat air inside the balloon envelope to go up or allow the air to cool to go down to catch a wind current going the direction they want to travel.


Last year’s winner, Ron Terranova from Fairfield, Ohio, will return to defend his title.  Most of the pilots are returning from past Ohio Challenge events. Only six spots were open for new pilots this year. The invitation-only event is popular with pilots and their crews who enjoy the festival, the welcome from local hot air balloon fans and the good flying situation in Middletown. Nineteen of the pilots call Ohio home. Others come from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.


To make the balloon watching experience as rewarding as possible, professional balloon event announcer Rob Otto from Detriot, Michigan, will be the on-site announcer for all balloon flights. Rob has many years of experience “on the mike” at balloon events and shares details about each of the balloons as they inflate and rise gently into the skies.


Old McDonald’s Farm, presented by primary sponsor MidFirst Credit Union, will make its first appearance in Ohio.  Since its first test flight in June, 2004, this 61 foot tall nursery rhyme theme balloon has visited Canada, New Zealand and several states, but none in the Midwest. Guests to the Ohio Challenge will certainly notice the huge balloon which holds 175,000 cubic feet of hot air, weighs 800 pounds empty and can carry 3-4 passengers on each flight. A crew of 15 is required to assist with inflation to begin the flight and pack-up at the end of each flight.


Another huge special shape balloon is the Air Ball, a Soccer Ball, standing 75 feet tall with a 57 foot diameter. The Air Ball has traveled to 15 states and was at the 2004 Ohio Challenge, but due to very gusty winds was seldom seen. First flown in 2002, it is the first special shape balloon to ever fly over the Continental Divide in Colorado, a feat accomplished at an altitude of 18,000 feet. Air Ball, based in Louisville, KY, is brought to Ohio Challenge by  Butler Tech Career Center.


The Ohio Challenge, with primary sponsor Mid-First Credit Union, is hosted by the Chamber of Commerce serving Middletown, Monroe and Trenton. 


For more information, call 513-259-3796 or visit

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