LEWISTON — Mickey Reeder moved to town, never having visited the city before, and got to know Lewiston from above.

Reeder moved here from Iowa with her husband, John, in 1972, when he bought a local chiropractic practice and she became his office manager. A decade later, they were looking for a hobby for their growing family — four kids and counting — when he saw an ad in the newspaper for a balloon piloting course.

“This seemed like an adventure,” Reeder said.

John took the course, got his pilot’s license and the couple bought a hot air balloon.

Hours after giving birth to their youngest, Morgan, at St. Mary’s Regional Hospital, a friend tricked her into walking over to a bay of windows in time to see John fly by with a banner that read, “It’s a boy!”

“Which was really cool — we’d only had it for two days,” Reeder said. “That was my husband’s way of not sending me flowers and sending the balloon by.”

On weekends, the family would declare it a good day to go up, and the kids would roll out the balloon in the backyard. Neighbors would come out to watch and help. Sometimes Reeder would go up, sometimes she would drive the chase car.

“When you go up in the air, the wind carries you wherever,” she said. “You really get to see your city. We would have so many people come out in their nightclothes (to watch the balloon pass by). It was like waking up the neighborhood.”

Their balloon was easily recognized from the ground by a band of black diamond panels around its otherwise colorful middle.

“I was always amazed at how much green there is in the city,” Reeder said.

It’s not something you appreciate from the ground.

John eventually became one of the founders of the annual Great Falls Balloon Festival and Reeder one of its first volunteers. Now in her third year as Balloonmeister, responsible for inviting other balloon pilots to the event and a host of other details, she said this year’s festival might be her last in a leading role.

She and John haven’t owned a balloon in six years and sold the chiropractic business this year to their son. They’d like to travel and take a cross-country road trip.

“It was a fun hobby,” Reeder said. “As our kids grew up, we lost our crew. We just decided it was time to find a new hobby.”

“I think I’m ready,” she said. “I don’t fly that much (anymore), but that’s OK. I think I enjoy seeing people go up for the first time more than I enjoy going up myself.”

Know someone everyone knows? Contact staff writer Kathryn Skelton at 689-2844 or [email protected]

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