of La Grange
have built successful ballooning business
The couple attend several
area festivals for rides and races
Helen E. McKinney,
(May, 2002) LA GRANGE, Ky. For Stuart and Diane
Crawford, the skys the limit. On a clear day, that is. The La
Grange, Ky., residents own and operate Crawford Hot Air Balloons, which
offers balloon flights seven days a week, year-round. Diane is the crew
chief in charge of recovery. This year she achieved Level 4 Master Crew
Chief, the highest designation from the Balloon Federation of America.
They are often helped in the business by their teenage children, Aaron
Stuarts love for ballooning began as a hobby, he
said. But as he became more involved with it, his passion turned into
a business venture, beginning in 1986.
Crawford is a commercial pilot with more than 1,300 hours logged. He
has flown small airplanes since 1977.
In addition to Crawford, the company employs three other balloon pilots
Michael Montgomery of Mt. Washington, Ky.; Rick Dillbeck of Evansville,
Ind.; and Tom Steinbock of Crestwood, Ky.
Passengers can schedule rides in one of his six hot air balloons in
selected areas of Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee and southeast Illinois.
The balloons carry two to six passengers each and a pilot.
Crawford said the average flight lasts one hour in his 65-foot-tall
balloons. Passengers can gracefully glide over a family farm or any
number of gently rolling scenic landscapes, as long as atmospheric conditions
Most flights are the result of gifts given for special occasions, such
as anniversaries, Mothers Day or Fathers Day. This present
is a memorable gift the receiver wont soon forget.
Crawford often participates in many civic events, such as the Balloon
Glow and the Great Balloon Race, which are both part of the annual Kentucky
Derby Festival and held at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center.
He has been in the Great Balloon Race for the last 15 years, and had
five balloons in this years race, held April 27.
Crawford has added to his list this year the new Madison Ribberfest,
scheduled for Aug. 16-17 in Madison, Ind. This festival was designed
to celebrate the cities heritage in the pork industry and will
feature BBQ cooking contests, blues music, Balloon Glow and two balloon
hare and hound races.
Committee chairperson Jim Pruett of RE/MAX Group 1 in Madison is organizing
the balloon races for Ribberfest. RE/MAX of Indiana is one of three
main sponsors for the festival.
We have worked with him in the past on races when we had balloons
tethered at different events, Pruett said of Crawford. He
offered a lot of input and was instrumental in working out details.
Pruett said the Balloon Glow would be held at 8 p.m. on Aug. 16 at on
the McCoy property on the Kentucky side of the river in Milton. This
would give festival-goers in Madison the chance to relax on the Indiana
riverbank and enjoy an unobstructed view of Crawfords balloons.
A 6:30 a.m. and a 5:30 p.m. race are scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 17.
A total of $5,000 will be awarded to balloon race winners.
Crawford said balloons are kind of like vehicles. The bigger they
are, the fancier they can be.
Crawfords business features UltraMagic Hot Air Balloons, of which
he sells new and used models. UltraMagic is based in Barcelona, Spain,
and manufactures envelopes, baskets and burners for hot air balloons.
If a customer wishes to purchase a balloon from Crawford, he can choose
from an UltraMagic stock design or order a balloon built to their specifications,
regarding shapes, colors and designs.
Crawford and his wife, Diane, train most of their pilots. He holds annual
training classes and provides a refresher class at Jefferson Community
Colleges southwest auditorium.
He said he likes to recruit people for crew members who have the
potential to become pilots. The crew is more than just a pilot.
After taking their first flight, many people become interested in becoming
hot air balloon pilots. Dr. Pat Stack of Madison said Crawford provided
him with one-on-one training.
My wife surprised me with a balloon ride for my 35th birthday.
After that, Stack was hooked on ballooning.
As you move with the air currents, Stack said there is no real
sense of movement. There is no wind in your face as you glide along.
Its very peaceful.
For information about Crawford Hot Air Balloons,
call (502) 222-7600 or 1-800-242-2966.
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