Hot Air Balloon Festival
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Santa Rosa had their annual Balloon Festival June 28, 2003.  We drove up to Santa Rosa, about an hour and a half north of San Francisco on Friday, June 27.  We had reserved a spot on their overnight camping ground so that we had front row seats for the balloon festival.  We spent the night in the van and then had a great day watching the balloons!
This is called "Dawn Patrol."  Before the sun even comes up, some of the balloons set up and check the air currents for the others.  Since it is still dark, the balloons lite up the sky.
The balloons took off and landed on the field, right outside our van windows.  We got up close and personal with lots of the balloons.  Here, one of the balloons is returning to the field.  They say only an experienced pilot can return the balloon to the same spot they took off from.
Early in the morning, the balloons began to inflate and get ready to take off.
We walked around the field and saw lots of different balloons.  Karen stands here with a balloon on her head like a hat!
A balloon prepares to lift into the air and fly away from the festival grounds.  Lots of people volunteered to help set up and inflate the balloons.  Melody and I were more of the spectator variety...watching everything unfold right in front of us, from the warmth of the van.
Up, Up and Away...
The balloons take to the skies...
The mass ascension took place around 9 in the morning.  25-30 balloons all took off together and filled the sky with their beautiful colors!!
There were all kinds of balloons there.  Different shapes as well as different colors.  Here is "Arky" a balloon that looks like Noah's ark.
Another unique shape was the pink piggy bank sponsored by Wells Fargo.  It sure is a bright pink.
The balloons in the sky weren't the only attractions.  Here we were allowed to enter into a balloon that was inflated, but kept on the ground.  You are looking into the inside of a balloon.
Melody poses here with an anchored balloon.  It's a small, land based, version of the Noah's Ark balloon, "Arky"
Karen  inside a balloon.  The balloons are made of an interesting fabric.  It even stood up to us walking inside of it.  This was a retired balloon that they let us play inside.
Melody plays inside the retired balloon.  They used a fan to pump air into the balloon and inflate it.  It was tethered to the ground and we took off our shoes and went in to play.