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Hudson Hot Air Affair corporate sponsor WESTconsin Credit Union put all hands on deck of a giant balloon basket to welcome the annual hot air balloon rally and winter festival. The crew included, front from left, WESTconsin Credit Union representatives Linda LaKosky, Patti Robertson, Tami Miller, Brittany Handrahan, Cole McCardle and Lori Rayome, along with Hot Air Affair committee member Steve Jacobs and his daughter Adeline from Stillwater Balloons; In the basket are Chuck Jerrick, Pennie Peterson and ...

Hot Air Affair offers many balloons, activities

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It's all about the balloons! And a new balloon is coming to Hudson for the first time for the 24th annual Hudson Hot Air Affair Feb. 1-3. The winter festival is presented by WESTconsin Credit Union--Hudson and features about 30 commercial, regular and special-shaped hot air balloons.

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The newest special-shape balloon to participate at this year's event is Gus T. Guppy, sponsored by Hudson House Grand Hotel, one of the charter balloon sponsors who have supported the Hot Air Affair since its beginning in 1990.

The special-shape balloon is a cheerful yellow fish, complete with blue stripes and big green eyes. The crowd favorite has traveled to balloon rallies around the United States on behalf of Air America Balloons.

Gus T. Guppy is an Aerostar AX6. The pilot will be Larry Konash, Burnsville, Minn., a recent transplant to the Midwest from New Jersey. He's been ballooning for 41 years with more than 3,200 hours in the air as a commercial pilot in command of a hot air balloon.

The Hot Air Affair is known for attracting commercial and special shape balloons, according to balloon coordinators Carla Timmerman and Molly Johnson. This year's commercial balloons include RE/MAX and U.S. Bank. The specialty balloon called Airganic Garden will be back in Hudson, compliments of Family Fresh Markets. In addition to Gus T. Guppy, other specialty balloons returning this year include the flying piano balloon April Love, sponsored by Zappa Brothers, and the POW-MIA balloon Freedom Flight V, sponsored by VVA Chapter 331.

"Balloon enthusiasts think special-shape balloons when they think of Hudson and we've had special shapes at all 24 years of our event," said Timmerman.

The Hudson Hot Air Affair is known as the premier winter hot air balloon rally in the Midwest with about 30 regular and special shaped balloons making the annual trip to Hudson.

Balloon launches are set for 7:30 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 2 and 3. An optional flight is at 3 p.m. Saturday and the crowd-pleasing Moon Glow or Field of Fire is at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

The 2013 theme for Hot Air Affair is "Majestic Flyway", a celebration of all things that fly over Hudson -- hot air balloons, fireworks, swans, eagles and other winged creatures.

Theme activities are planned for the weekend, including a visit by a live eagle from the University of Minnesota Raptor Center at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2, at Rock Elementary. A Walking Art Show and Sale will be held at numerous locations throughout Hudson with bird and balloon photographs for sale with profits earmarked to help feed the flock of trumpeter swans that winter in Hudson each year.

Other theme activities include a book signing by nature photographer and

author Stan Tekiela and Native American dancing and drumming.

The Hot Air Affair isn't just a spectator event. Here are some options for individual or family participation (some requesting advance registration).

--Annual count down kick-off event is Friday, Jan. 25, at Dick's Bar & Grill. Festivities run from 5-8 p.m. with trivia contests, prizes and special "Majestic Flyway" events. Dick's Bar is a charter sponsor of the Hot Air Affair.

--Ignite Martial Arts open house is Saturday, Jan. 26, from 1-3 p.m. at its new location at 2421 Hanley Road. Keeping with the year's bird theme, learn a crane kick and how to fold origami cranes. Introductory martial arts and self-defense classes, demo team performances with board breaking and an obstacle course are planned.

--Free family day activity, sponsored by Eckberg Lammers, will be the final countdown event--starting at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 27, at The Phipps Center for the Arts. As they have done for the past nine years, the event is inspired by the theme of Hot Air Affair. Participants will make a craft project for the quirky torchlight parade on Feb. 1. All materials are provided for the free hands-on art-making activity. Call (715) 386-2305 to sign up.

--Hot Air Affair geocaching all weekend, Feb. 1-3. Go to Geocaching for coordinates of winter friendly geocaches in Hudson and the St. Croix Valley. New caches have been hidden in the immediate Hudson vicinity and hundreds of caches are listed on the web site for the surrounding area. A beginners program for families interested in geocaching will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 2, at Rock Elementary.

--Button instant prizes at participating businesses. Pick up your Hot Air Affair button before the event and return to the 27 business locations to look for your button number posted Feb. 1-3. If your number matches, you're an instant winner. Many retail locations are planning special sales and promotions and restaurants and bistros will offer a Hot Air Affair welcome.

--Torchlight "2013 Majestic Flyway" parade is at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb.

1, in downtown Hudson. Businesses, individuals and groups can all compete for prizes in categories of best overall parade unit, best "Majestic Flyway" unit and the best kazoo marching band. Sign up by calling (715) 386-8332 or (715) 381-2050.

--Up, Up & Away 5k run/walk will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 2, with registration at Mt. Zion Lutheran Church, just east of Rock Elementary. Registration forms are available at sponsor Anytime Fitness in Hudson or download the form at Hudson Hot Air Affair.com.

Runners and walkers will receive a Hot Air Affair T-shirt and treated to lunch, prizes and door prizes after the race.

--Minnesota Kite Society invites you to bring your kites or purchase one at the Rock Elementary launch field Saturday, Feb. 2. Society members will provide a kite ground display, stunt kite demos and fighter kites. The annual kite show is sponsored by Xcel Energy.

--Smooshboarding competition is the wackiest winter sport at Hot Air Affair with four-person teams vying for top honors. Prizes will be given for the best team in competition plus best "Majestic Flyway" costumes. Registration is $10; call (715) 381-2050.

--Ice carving will return this year with La Petite Dentistry sponsoring the ice carving demonstration at Rock Elementary grounds Saturday, Feb. 2 at 1 p.m. Watch the skills of a professional award winning ice carver bring a big block of ice to life in front of your eyes.

--Crafts for kids is 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2, at Rock Elementary. Youngsters can warm up while showing off their crafting talents. The kid-friendly event is sponsored by Associated Bank.

--Benefit Bingo at the Hudson House Grand Hotel Saturday, Feb. 2, starting at 7 p.m. The Hudson Boosters will bring back the popular Bingo fundraiser to support their Hudson youth sports programs. The event is sponsored by Hudson Luther Car Dealerships.

--18th Annual Chili Cook-Off, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2 p.m. at Dick's Bar & Grill. The hottest, the best, enter your favorite warm up chili concoction and you could win cash, trophies or fabulous prizes. Call sponsor Dick's Bar & Grill at 715-386-5222 for details

and registration by Feb. 2 as space is limited.

--Hot Air balloon crews needed to set up, chase and take down balloons.

Numerous balloonists travel to Hudson alone from long distances and need local volunteers to help crew for the weekend. Previous balloon crewing experience is preferred but not necessary. Local drivers who know area roads area also needed to assist out of town balloonists. If you'd

like to crew, call the Hot Air Affair office at 715-381-2050 or email

HHAA

Brochures

Hot Air Affair brochures and event details are available at local businesses and the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau office. Check out the website at Hudson Hot Air Affair.com for a complete event schedule. The Hot Air Affair Facebook page has the latest news and pictures of countdown and HAA weekend events.

This year's brochure has money-saving coupons from Pizza Hut, Northland Liquors, Hudson County Market, the Hudson House Grand Hotel, Oakwood Dental, Family Fresh Market--Hudson, New Richmond, River Falls and Farmington, Aamodt's Hot Air Balloon Rides, Mattress Galaxy, Chicone's Liquor Mart and Ignite Martial Arts.

The Hot Air Affair, presented by WESTconsin Credit Union--Hudson, is coordinated by 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 the Hot Air Affair office at (715) 381-2050 or email hudsonhotairaffair@gmail.com. The event will also be posting flight decisions and other timely notices on Facebook and Twitter.

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