Event takes flight in High River
Community: Hot air balloons to fill the sky in championship event this week
By: Tammy Rollie
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 25, 2013 10:18 am
A foothills politician could reach new heights this week as he bumps baskets with some of Canada’s top pilots.
Three days after submitting his application to run for High River’s mayor, Coun. Jamie Kinghorn is taking to the skies in his brown, yellow and black hot air balloon to compete against 20 pilots for the Canadian title in the 2013 Canadian Hot Air Balloon Championships in High River Sept. 25 to 29. The winner advances to the World Hot Air Balloon Championship in Brazil next year.
Although Kinghorn placed third in the last championship in 2011, the pilot of 25 years said he isn’t taking this competition too seriously.
“I don’t think I’m going to be super competitive at this event,” he said. “I’ve got the election coming, flood issues, we’ve got lots of events going on. I’m looking at this more of a fun thing to do.”
In fact, Kinghorn plans to have some company in his basket during the competition.
“I will likely take people with me and share the experience with them,” he said.
Although this may not be a medal-winning year, Kinghorn has been pretty fired up in the past.
“You are totally focused on every single move,” he said. “You are doing calculations on speed and distance and making sure you are getting to the right place.”
When it comes to winning the championship the competition is fierce, said Kinghorn.
“Both pilots will jockey their balloons to get the right line on the target so if you have to push one of the balloons over there is no hesitation on that,” he said. “It can get pretty serious. We are talking about going to the worlds and it’s a pretty prestigious invitation to participate in the worlds. Only 100 pilots in the world get that invite and I think we get one or two seats at these worlds.”
Kinghorn said the trick to winning is having a good understanding of the weather, the effects hills and valleys have on the balloon, air regulations, how the equipment operates, emergency procedures and wind.
“Wind steers you to where you want to go,” he said. “It takes some time to find that wind and get the one that takes you closest to the target.”
From Sept. 26 to 28 at 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. and Sept. 29 at 7:30 a.m. the pilots will be tasked to select their own starting point and navigate their way to about eight air and ground targets per flight where they must drop a beanbag on the target. Their success is measured in points over the four days.
As Kinghorn flies over his potential voters this week, it’s likely they won’t be on his mind.
“When you climb into the balloon and go into the air it’s like the earth left you,” he said. “You just think about how beautiful it is and you look around and see the mountains. You don’t really think about the every day problems you have on Mother Earth.”
Kinghorn said he is eager to see is home and those of his neighbours along the Highwood River while in flight.
“I live right on the river so it would be cool to fly over my house and see how (the river) has changed,” he said. “Myself and a lot of people lost something out of the flood. You never know, I might spot something out of my garage from up there.”
Kinghorn’s love for his community is what got the championships taking off in High River. Recent competitions were held in Grand Prairie and Camrose.
“I called up some friends and said, ‘We’ve got this show and shine in High River and there is going to be 1,000 cars and it would be cool to fly our balloons over it,” he said. “I asked, do you think this area is suitable for the Canadian championships and I got a resounding ‘yes.’”
Championship committee member Karen Williamson said everything was falling into place until the June 20 flood hit.
“The flood came and obviously there was a lot of, ‘Can we do this?’ and that became even more important to the committee that we do it there because they’ve been through a lot and they are a very resilient community and we really want to showcase that,” she said.
Williamson said High River is the ideal flight location, but they couldn’t approach businesses for support after so many were devastated by the flood.
Thankfully, they were able to secure a sponsor for the event.
The championships kicks off with a media briefing at the Heritage Inn Hotel in High River on Sept. 25 at 4:30 p.m. followed by an evening flight.
The public is invited to watch the competition, a balloon glow event where the balloons will be lit up at the Little Bow Campground at 8 p.m. on Sept. 27 and are encouraged to look for the Darth Vader and pink elephant balloons from Belgium.
The Canadian champion will be awarded at the Stampede Stage during the High River Show and Shine on Sept. 29 at 2 p.m.
For more information go to www.canadianhotairballoonchampionships.com