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St. LOUIS, (SLFP.com), September 21, 2013 - The skies over Forest Park were brilliant blue on Saturday, perfect weather for the 41st annual Great Forest Park Balloon Race. Perfect, except for gusty breezes blowing in from the north.
Evidence of the heavy downpour on Friday was barely visible around Central Field as park staff had put out mulch and straw everywhere to keep mud tracks and soggy grass at a minimum.
By mid afternoon, thousands of families had pushed baby strollers, carried coolers, cameras and chairs into Forest Park to find the perfect spot for viewing the big event.
The north side of the field featured numerous children's activities with the Purina/Alpo Children's Entertainment Area, pony rides, a climbing wall, interactive inflatables, demonstrations by the St. Louis Elite Gymnastics Team, games and crafts, skydiving and live music performances on the School of Rock stage.
Festival-goers waited patiently in long lines for favorites like funnel cakes, BBQ sandwiches, popcorn, cottoncandy and anything cold to drink in the food court area. Pet owners proudly walked their dogs around the field greeting other pet owners. Others shared memories of past balloon races and told jokes while keeping a close eye on their kids.
On the field, pilots of nearly sixty balloons and their crews waited in anticipation of the scheduled liftoff at 4:45 p.m. To pass the time while waiting for the winds to calm, the announcer provided background information on the pilots, including birthdays.
When the announcement finally came over the loudspeaker that the Fox 2 / KPLR 11 balloon, piloted by one of the "Flying Tomato Brothers" had been designated as the "Hare" Balloon, it became clear that the 166' iconic pink Energizer Bunny® Hot "Hare" Balloon, piloted by Glo Kehoe, was grounded. Other pilots opted out of flying as well.
The crowd didn't appear to be too disappointed and cheered excitedly as crews quickly began the process of unfurling colorful balloons and hitching up baskets. Each pilot and balloon was announced and sent on their way with "Have a safe flight."
Hot air ballooning is considered as one of the top spectator sports. Skilled pilots guide their balloons over unique landscapes in the area. However, on Saturday, the flight of the balloon shaped like a golf ball ended unexpectedly on a hill at the southeast edge of Forest Park, near Kingshighway and I-64. Other balloons, including Ameren Missouri dropped down in Tower Grove Park to the delight of visitors in the park. Some pilots made it safely across the Mississippi River, south of downtown St. Louis, and into Illinois.
See related story: Great Forest Park Balloon Glow Lights Up Sky Over Central Field in Forest Park
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