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Hot Air Affair Feb. 1-3

Submitted photo.

A popular hot air balloon will return to the Hudson Hot Air Affair Feb. 1-3 -- the RE/MAX balloon. The familiar red, white and blue aerostat representing the real estate company has been part of Hot Air Affair for more than 20 years.

The winter festival and hot air balloon rally is presented by WESTconsin Credit Union-Hudson and features about 30 commercial, regular and special-shaped hot air balloons. This year's theme is "Majestic Flyway" highlighting things that fly over Hudson -- hot air balloons, fireworks, swans, eagles and other feathered visitors.

Mike Sommer, Rochester, Minn., will be piloting the RE/MAX balloon this year. He's been flying balloons for nearly 30 years, holds a commercial license and has flown as pilot in command for more than 500 hours in hot air balloons. He flies for RE/MAX and makes special appearances on behalf of the real estate offices throughout the region, including long time Hot

Air Affair sponsor Jim Henry and RE/MAX Results.

While in Hudson for Hot Air Affair, Sommer will help with media flights and participate in the Friday night Torchlight Parade, in addition to the launches on Saturday and Sunday mornings. The RE/MAX balloon will be a standout at E.P. Rock school grounds during the popular Moon Glow or Field of Fire on Saturday night, Feb. 2.

Even though the Hot Air Affair doesn't officially start until Feb. 1, there are January countdown events for individual and family participation.

PressEnter! is again coordinating a photo contest.

Hot Air Affair photos can be submitted from all countdown events in addition to the big weekend. Visit Pressenter for complete photo contest details.

A new Hot Air Affair event this year is the Taste of the Flyway--Beer, Wine and Spirits Tastings, sponsored by American Sky Brewery and 45th Parallel. The Saturday, Feb. 2, event starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Hudson House Grand Hotel. In keeping with the "Majestic Flyway" theme, profits from the Tastings will be donated to the Willow River OWLs, a friends group for Willow River State Park that coordinates educational programming about nature.

The tastings will feature beers from Hudson's American Sky Brewery, wines from Chateau St. Croix Winery at St. Croix Falls and spirits from 45th Parallel in New Richmond.

Knoke's Chocolates will provide sample candies and Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery a variety of cheeses. Participants will also enjoy appetizers from the Hudson House Grand Hotel and live music.

Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Tickets can be purchased at the American Sky taproom, 45th Parallel or the Hudson House Grand Hotel or ordered from the Hudson Hot Air Affair.

Anyone wanting to order advance tickets can send a check to Taste of the Flyway, P.O. Box 744, Hudson, WI 54016. Include name, mailing address, email address and telephone number. Tickets can be held at will call at the Hudson House Grand Hotel Saturday night, Feb. 2, or mailed to ticket buyers.

Now's the time to sign up for individual and family participation in Hot Air Affair weekend activities. Visit the website for registration details for the Torchlight Parade, Up, Up & Away 5K Fun Run/Walk, Smooshboarding and Chili Cook-Off.

New 2013 brochures are now available at local businesses and the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau. The brochure has details of all events plus ten coupons from local businesses. Complete schedules are currently posted at Hudson Hot Air and event organizers welcome followers of the Hot Air Affair on Facebook. These online tools will be used Hot Air Affair weekend to update the status of balloon flights.

Anyone interested in volunteering at the 24th annual Hudson Hot Air Affair should leave a message at (715) 381-2050. Volunteers are needed for hot air balloon chase crews and other event activities.