Madison Ribberfest Balloon Races
will join others in balloon races, glow
MADISON, Ind. (Aug. 12, 2005) Indianapolis
WISH TV pilot John Solenberg will relinquish his news helicopter this
weekend to participate in the Madison Ribberfest balloon races, sponsored
Solenberg has been flying since the 1970s, when he learned to pilot
seaplanes, helicopters and aerobatic planes. Ballooning is Solenbergs
latest airborne adventure. He started five years ago through a friend.
The transition from airplanes and helicopters to balloons was easy for
the veteran airman.
and John Solenberg prepare
to lift off at a recent hot
air ballooning festival.
"The sensation of flight is similar to flying a helicopter,
only much, much slower, he said. Balloon pilots take the
same written and oral tests as private pilots for an airplane.
Solenberg passed the tests, including an hour-long flight with a Federal
Aviation Administration official, bought a balloon and now takes part
in six competitions each year. This year will be Solenbergs third
appearance at the Madison Ribberfest race. Last year, Solenberg placed
Morning and afternoon Hare and Hound races are planned for Saturday,
Aug. 20. A balloon glow is planned for 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19, on the
Kentucky side of the Ohio River but visible from the festival area in
downtown Madison. More than two dozen balloonists from Indiana and surrounding
states will join Solenberg to compete for a total purse of $5,000.
The first race will begin at 6:30 a.m. The second race will begin at
6 p.m., with the points combined to decide an overall winner.
In a Hare and Hound race, the hare balloon departs five to 10 minutes
before the hound balloons. The hare scouts out a suitable location and
drops a 20-foot target on the ground. Each hound balloon must navigate
toward the target and toss a marker as close to the X as
The two heats will each pay $400 for first, $175 for second,
$75 for third, $50 for second and $25 for fifth place. The overall competition
will award $1,200 to first, $550 to second, $275 to third, $175 to fourth,
and $50 to fifth. Winning balloons that took part in the balloon glow
will receive an additional bonus.
Solenberg said he enjoys the camaraderie among area balloonists. Ive
gotten to know a lot of people. You see the same balloons and the same
pilots at the contests.
Once in the air, however, all bets are off. It can get pretty
competitive, Solenberg noted.
Jeff Menchhofer will serve as the Balloon Meister and will pilot the
RE/MAX hare balloon. Menchhofers McCordsville, Ind., company,
Balloon Port, orchestrates events for RE/MAX offices around the state.
As a teenager, Menchhofer and his father built their own balloon from
scratch after hours at their industrial sewing company. FAA regulations
on homemade balloons restricted their flights, so he soon purchased
Menchhofer trained with a balloon pilot and passed the FAA tests to
obtain his license in 1978. Hes been flying ever since and now
makes about 100 flights each year, including charity events, races and
Solenberg advises anyone interested in ballooning to take a ride or
find an instructor to learn more.
For more information or to order tickets, call
the Madison Area Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-559-2956
or visit: www.madisonribberfest.com.
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