It could happen anywhere, but when you live in Hunterdon County it's especially common to have hot air balloons land near your home. Sadly I missed the whole thing. It was 7 o'clock in the morning on Sunday when our little ones woke my wife over the monitors. On weekends we alternate who gets up with them, and this was her turn. By the time I was up at 8 it was all over.

A hot air balloon had come down right in our cul-de-sac, literally in front of our house. I would guess it landed 100 feet from our steps. She heard nothing. She was simply passing by a window when she saw something colorful. She grabbed her phone and our 3 yr old and 1 1/2 yr old. Check out the pictures she took.

Now if you don't know much about how this works, that van is with the balloon. It's a chase vehicle. That guy's job is to keep track of where the balloon will likely land and catch up to it taking this street and that until it gets to the nearest spot it can park. In this case it was right on the street itself! Once the balloon deflates they pack that along with the gondola into the van and call it a day.

A tradition of ballooning is for the crew to give a bottle of champagne to the property owner wherever they land. From the enthusiast site is the following explanation:

"One of the facets of ballooning that adds a certain romanticism to it that has largely been lost to other forms of flying is that it holds to certain small traditions, some of which go back to ballooning's origins in France.

One of these traditions is for the pilot/aeronaut to present the landowner on whose property you make your final landing with a ceremonial bottle of champagne. This tradition is reputed to have started with the first balloonists in France. The first hot air balloons were filled with not just hot air but smoke, due to a slight mistake by scientists of that era who believed the lift was due to the smoke rather than the heat. Thus, early balloons landing in peasants' farm fields were likely to be attacked with stones and clubs and pitchforks, since they were obviously fire-breathing monsters. French peasants came with a certain level of sophistication, however. Early French aeronauts found that the peasants could be easily distracted if the monster's human occupants offered them a glass of champagne. It is very unlikely that any landowner today thinks the balloons are monsters, but some remain irate until offered the champagne! (Today we offer the whole bottle!)"

Now I don't know if peasants in the 1700's actually thought of them as fire-breathing monsters or if that's just good folklore, but with all that smoke coming down in their fields I could certainly see them being annoyed. Just 30 feet over and I could have had a free bottle of champagne! Really though, would they ring a doorbell at 7 in the morning on a Sunday to offer this? Doubtful. I imagine the tradition is only done when a landowner actually comes out to greet them.

The kids were completely fascinated of course, and I wish it had been my turn to wake up with them. I have yet to make it to the Festival of Ballooning but judging by the little ones I clearly need to go.

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