Those on the ground might think they are seeing two glowing orbs in the heavens during the Great Falls Balloon Festival this year when Sunny Boy brightens the sky much like its namesake. This 120-foot tall hot air balloon is one of two featured special-shape balloons coming to the festival in Lewiston-Auburn.

Sunny Boy, owned by Carol Weiner, was created in 1996, making it 18 years old this year. Pilot Ben Drennan said the balloon looks as good as it did the day it was built because it is handled with care. Drennan will be bringing the balloon to Maine from Navarre, Florida with a crew of three or four members.

“It takes between 10 to 20 crew members to handle the balloon so we use additional crew wherever we go. The local crews know the area we’ll be flying over and it’s a great way to meet new people and learn about the different places that we visit,” he said.

Drennan got his pilot license when he was 16 years old, about 14 years ago. This is the first time Drennan has visited Maine. His wife is doing research on what they should see and do while they are here. “We definitely want to eat some lobster and visit the coast,” he said.

‘s envelope weighs about 950 pounds; with the basket it’s about 1,300 to 1,400 pounds. The basket can carry up to four people plus the pilot, but two to three passengers is ideal, according to Drennan.

“One of my most memorable flights was over the Richelieu River in St. John, Quebec about 10 years ago. I love flying over water,” said Drennan. “It was just beautiful.”

Drennan knows that the Great Falls Balloon Festival is held on both sides of the Androscoggin River and he is looking forward to flying over the river, perhaps doing a “splash and dash” which is when a hot air balloon descends so that it’s basket skims water before resuming flight.

In describing flight by balloon, Drennan talked about how peaceful a hot air balloon flight can be once the balloon reaches high altitude. “There is no sensation of lifting off the ground. Lift off is so gentle that rather than feeling upward movement, the earth looks like it is moving away.” Drennan said, “The only noise is the burner every now and then. Balloon flights are the best for seeing things from above – the view puts the big picture into perspective.”


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