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Hot Air Affair is tradition for Hudson, pilots

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Pilot Ken Walter during the media flight on Friday, Feb. 3. 2 / 5
About half of the participating hot air balloons lit up Saturday night for the annual Moon Glow at E.P. Rock Elementary. The Hot Air Affair hosted about 30 balloons total.3 / 5
Pet rat Tsuki rides in her hot air balloon during the pet costume contest at Angel’s Pet World. Tsuki and her owner Jolie Louisa Parsons won second place.4 / 5
Melanie Berg, Rachel Scherer, Erin Rabideaux and Julie Goetzke shuffle in for a win during the Smoosh Board competition at the Hot Air Affair. The team won the competition.5 / 5

Standing in a wicker basket a couple thousand feet in the air, with all of Hudson and a good portion of Wisconsin spanning below, pilot Ken Walter admitted it was an experience he would never get used to.

Even after 30 years.

Walter has been a balloonist since the late 1980s, when a friend recruited him to go up as part of his crew.

"I was hooked," Walter said.

After starting as a crew member, Walter went on to get his pilot license, and started WindDancer Balloon promotions.

His experience with the Hudson Hot Air Affair is almost as lengthy. He's been with the event since the beginning, 28 years ago. Walters helps run the weekend adventure, taking media up for a ride every year, sitting on the balloon committee, and assisting with the Torchlight Parade.

Every February, Walter brings his family and crew, often one and the same, on the four-hour journey from outside Milwaukee to the Hudson balloon grounds at E.P. Rock Elementary School.

Though the morning was cold and the wind was a little high, Walter took off once again during the media flight Friday. It was the only flight time to make it up in the air this year.

High winds kept the balloons grounded for the rest of the weekend, but the other Hot Air Affair events drew residents and visitors. Balloon crews lined Vine Street with their burners Friday night for the Torchlight Parade. The annual Smoosh Board and pet costume competitions were underway Saturday, with kite flying and ice carving also taking place throughout the day.

The weather cooperated enough for pilots and crews to inflate about half of the 30-plus balloons Saturday night for the Moon Glow. The balloons' burners lit up the E.P. Rock Elementary School field.

Next year the Hot Air Affair will be held the last weekend of January to avoid interference from the Super Bowl in Minneapolis.

Rebecca Mariscal

Rebecca Mariscal joined the Hudson Star Observer as a reporter in 2016. She graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a degree in communication and journalism. 

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