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25th-annual Hudson Hot Air Affair is this weekend

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Rose Eakins, a balloonmeister from the early days of the Hot Air Affair, Rose Eakins will lead the Torchlight Parade Friday night. The parade begins at 7 p.m., followed by fireworks over the St. Croix River.2 / 3
Carole Ganz, a balloonmeister from the early days of the Hot Air Affair, Rose Eakins will lead the Torchlight Parade Friday night. The parade begins at 7 p.m., followed by fireworks over the St. Croix River.3 / 3

It’s all about the balloons -- nearly 40 of them coming to Hudson this weekend for the annual Hudson Hot Air Affair. This is the 25th year of the winter festival and hot air balloon rally and old home week for many of the returning pilots.

“Seven pilots who flew in the very first Hot Air Affair will be back this year” said balloon coordinator Carla Timmerman.

She said original balloonmeister and event coordinator Rose Eakins is on the pilot roster this year and Eakins asked that other first year balloonists be welcomed back. They include Dave Johnson, Glen Terry and Jim Borchert. Jim Wohlwend, Wynn Gustafson and Larry Nickolay also flew in the first event in 1990 and have continued to fly at the Hudson event over the years and will be here this weekend.

Gustafson has only missed one Hot Air Affair over the past 24 years and that was when he was in the hospital and he called in sick from his hospital bed for the weekend.

“We’re an annual stop on many balloonists’ schedules” explained Timmerman. “The winter rally doesn’t face as much event competition and corporate balloon companies seem to like the Hudson event.

“We’ve had a RE/MAX balloon since nearly the beginning and U.S. Bank has been coming for more than a decade.”

Illinois pilot Bennet Schwontkowski has brought multiple commercial balloons to Hudson since the early days, including the AOL special shape and Airganic Garden.

This year’s Torchlight Parade grand marshals will have an old home week feel too, in celebration of “The Silver Screen” theme for the 25th year. Original Hot Air Affair committee members from 1990 who have helped with the event through the years will be recognized: John Knutson, Linda White, Carla Timmerman, Margaret Ontl, Art Doyle and Evy Nerbonne.

Original balloonmeister Rose Eakins and her crew chief Carol Ganz are also being recognized and will lead the Torchlight Parade Friday night, which begins at 7 p.m., followed by fireworks over the St. Croix River.

If you’re looking for other “Silver Screen” movie connections on Saturday, check out the historical film display at the Octagon House Museum. The St. Croix County Historical Society’s “History of Hudson” movie will be shown at the Hudson Library between 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The Hot Air Affair’s retrospective film on the past 25 years will be shown at noon at the Hudson House Grand Hotel.

Hot Air Affair activities start during the day on Friday with the retail button promotion. The public may pick up buttons at participating businesses and look for winning numbers. Education programs will also be presented at Hudson schools on Friday by hot air balloon pilots.

Musical offerings are scheduled both Friday and Saturday nights at numerous locations throughout Hudson including The Hangar Taproom at American Sky Brewery, Dick’s Bar & Grill, Urban Olive and Vine and Plaza Lounge/Hudson Bowling Center.

There’s also a pancake breakfast at the Masonic Temple on Saturday morning and the chili cook-off Sunday afternoon at Dick’s Bar & Grill.

E.P. Rock Elementary School will be the hub of activity on Saturday with the first hot air balloon launch scheduled at 7:30 a.m. If the balloons don’t fly in the morning, they’ll try again at 3 p.m. Saturday. The final launch is scheduled for Sunday at 7:30 a.m. The popular Moon Glow or Field of Fire will be at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Look for the spotlights leading to the launchfield.

Saturday’s schedule at E.P. Rock School will also include an outdoor Olympiad of children’s games in addition to the ever popular smooshboarding and kite flying. Inside the school, a concession area and marketplace will offer food, beverages and a plethora of craft and marketplace shopping options. Entertainment at the school during the day on Saturday will feature the Hudson Dance Academy, Dalet Group singers and a martial arts demonstration by Ignite Martial Arts.

The Hudson Hot Air Affair, presented by Westconsin Credit Union—Hudson, is coordinated by a nonprofit community volunteer organization. Look for brochures with money saving coupons throughout the Hudson community. A complete schedule of events is available in this week’s Star-Observer and is also posted on The event will also be posting flight decisions and other timely notices on Facebook and Twitter.