Hot Air Affair is tradition for Hudson, pilots
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.