Character builder goes over like lead balloon

Shelley Blundell

Northeast Ohio’s weather has seen fit to thwart my attempt at personal growth, once again.

As a journalist in training at the Jackson Township newspaper, the Jackson Observer, I was given the opportunity to go up in a hot air balloon Friday as part of the press group for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Festival Balloon Classic Invitational, held in North Canton.

As some of you may have read a few weeks ago, I am afraid of the dark. I am even more afraid of heights, so imagine my stomach-churning anxiety upon being given this assignment.

At first, I chickened out when my editor asked me if I wanted to go. Then, after thinking about it for a couple of hours, I thought to myself, “If you don’t do this, you will kick yourself for missing out on this opportunity.”

So I said yes and spent the entire week prior to the early morning launch preparing myself for the ride.

I read everything I could find online about hot air balloons – worst case scenarios, structures of balloons, the sport of ballooning, the “aeronaut” culture (aeronaut being the friendly nickname of balloon pilots in the ballooning community) and exactly how the balloon works in conjunction with the weather to be able to fly.

I was ready.

Unfortunately, the being in control of the morning weather Friday was not.

I walked into the tent that morning along with my fellow media personnel, nerves at the ready to undertake what I was sure would be a character-building experience. Considering this was at 5:30 a.m., it took a lot for me to think positively on the experience to come.

After sitting about aimlessly for the better part of an hour, we were told the crushing news: There would be no balloon flights that morning due to the weather.

You see, as my would-be balloon pilot Scott Wooge of St. Louis, Mo., explained, balloonists are “fair-weather folk.” The balloons do not go up unless conditions are optimal for flying: For instance, the air is stable, and the weather is favorable.

Being that we live in Northeast Ohio and it is summer, of course it was not. Threats loomed of impending thunderstorms sweeping through for the better part of the morning, which meant we were grounded.

And so was I.

Although I felt both disappointed and relieved, I did accomplish something important out of this whole mess. I discovered that I do have the ability to take on a task that may scare the bejeebers out of me if it means experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Who knows? Maybe a hot air balloon floats somewhere in my future. Until then, I’ll just have to watch from the ground like other festival-goers.

Shelley Blundell is a senior magazine journalism major and columnist for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].