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Hot air balloon race marks beginning of expo

Saturday, April 12, 2014 | 5:58 p.m. CDT
Hot air balloons took off from the Central Missouri Events Center on Friday for a hare and hound race.

COLUMBIA — Huge tents of color and air emerged from deceptively small trailers Friday as people unfurled their hot air balloons.

These operators were gearing up for the Mid-Missouri Home and Lifestyle Expo's hot air balloon event, where they would be taking part in a hare and hound race.

Mid-Missouri Home and Lifestyle Expo

The Mid-Missouri Home and Lifestyle Expo continues through the weekend.

Sunday's hours: Noon to 4 p.m.

Where: Central Missouri Events Center, 5212 N. Oakland Gravel Road

Information: Mid-Missouri Home and Lifestyle Expo website



During the race, a lead balloon launched and the others rushed to fill the rest of the chute with a huge fan and blasting spouts of hot air and flames into the cavity of the balloon. The first baskets took off from the Central Missouri Events Center with strong winds, in the hopes of catching up to the lead balloon and dropping their weighted flag closest to the target that balloon had set.

Boomer, the hot air balloon owned and operated by Gary Whitby and his wife, was in pursuit.

As Whitby started the descent toward the marker, the winds changed and swung the balloon west. The marker abandoned, Whitby looked for a place to land and began to descend once again until the wind pushed him toward power lines, which forced him to gain altitude.

Boomer finally reunited with the chase team in an open field where he had been able to set down not far from some of the other balloons that got swept up in the changing wind patterns.  

After the operators walked their balloons back to their trailers, the dismantling began. The huge, billowing envelope was reduced once again to a small bundle.

Later, a champagne christened the first flight for the two people who had celebrated their first time aloft in a hot air balloon.

Supervising editor is Joshua Boucher.


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