Conner Prairie hosts Jupiter Flights Balloon Festival


By Cassie King

The Jupiter Flights Balloon Festival took off at Conner Prairie in Fishers Sept. 8 and continued through Sept. 10

Besides daytime balloon flights, the festival included Friday and Saturday night Glow events showcasing the 42 balloons lit up and full color; live music; bounce houses; demonstrations; food trucks; and activities for all ages. Attendees also enjoyed a festival-exclusive preview of the Headless Horseman corn maze.

“This is Indiana’s largest hot air balloon festival,” said Holly Pasquinelli, senior manager of public relations and communications at Conner Prairie. “This year marked the third year for the Jupiter Flights Festival, with 42 participants.”

Pilots participated from different states, including Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Missouri. The balloons varied in color, shape and size.

Two free events were planned for Saturday and Sunday morning, but because of weather, Saturday morning’s competition was canceled. Sunday was clear, though, and there were approximately 1,500 attendees at that free event.

Sunday morning kicked off with competitions featuring Hare and Hound races, where competitors follow a “hare” balloon and attempt to drop a marker close to a target displayed by the hare no more than two meters upwind of the basket after landing.

Pioneer balloon pilot and Tipton resident Allen Baird said he enjoyed the event.

“I’m not a competitive pilot, just a fun pilot,” he said.

Baird received his pilot’s license in 1979 and pilots a sport balloon with a commercial logo.

“It’s been a real fun journey for me,” Baird said.

“Amazing experience here,” Carmel resident R. Natarajan said. “The kids are having fun.”

Fishers resident Peter Freytag said it was his first time seeing the competitive balloon event.

“I wish I had my easel,” he said. “I could try to paint this. Very pretty.”

Marty Gauthier, pilot of the Airbender balloon from Waterford, Mich., was named grand champion. His brother, Travis Gauthier, also from Waterford, came in second. He piloted the Corn-Nutz balloon. Hoosier Andy Sizemore of Crown Point, pilot of the Serenity balloon, came in third.