Balloon Festival Takes Flight


Annual event launches into fourth year Aug. 24

The sky’s the limit this month as the fourth annual Greater Lansing Balloon Festival takes off Aug. 24-25 at the Hope Sports Complex, 5801 Aurelius Road in Lansing. Presented by RE/MAX Real Estate Professionals, the event has raised tens of thousands of dollars for its primary beneficiary, the Lansing Promise Scholarship Fund. To celebrate the return of this worthwhile and family-friendly festival, here are several untraditional stories from the history of hot-air ballooning.

A sheep, a duck and a rooster walk into a bar …

Yes, it sounds like the opening of a bad joke, but a sheep, a duck and a rooster actually have the distinction of being the first passengers in a hot-air balloon. The site eballoon.orgexplains that on Sept. 19, 1783, French scientist Jean-Francois Pilatre De Rozier launched a hot-air balloon called “Aerostat Reveillon” with the barnyard trio aboard. The balloon reportedly stayed aloft for a grand total of 15 minutes before crashing back to the ground – at which time the grills were fired up and the barbecue began (I just made that last part up). The first manned flight in a hot-air balloon didn’t take place until November 1783. Presumably, the local farm animals gathered together rolled their eyes and exchanged dismissive and catty comments such as “Try something original. That issooootwo months ago.”

I demand a trial by combat …

In what may be the most unconventional – or all-time lamest – duel in history, two Frenchmen took to the skies to defend their honor. According to, a dispute over a young dancer at the Paris Opera led Monsieur Le Pique and rival Monsieur de Grandpré to square off in opposing hot-air balloons in 1808. The object of the grudge match was to get a certain distance off the ground and fire upon the other’s balloon. At roughly 900 yards up, the green light was given, and Le Pique shot first. And … missed. Seriously. He missed a freaking hot-air balloon. Talk about not being able to hit the lake from the dock. Grandpré apparently took a bit more care with his aim (obviously fearing any poor marksmanship would be openly mocked in an online article 211 years later) and punctured Le Pique’s envelope, sending him hurtling downward to his ultimate death.

Bubbles, tiny bubbles …

One long-standing tradition among ballooning enthusiasts is to partake in a champagne toast upon landing – either to celebrate the completion of a successful flight or to calm jangled nerves while they contemplate why they didn’t take up a more reasonable earthbound hobby like golf. The champagne custom dates back to the earliest days of ballooning; however, the origins behind it differ depending on the source. Some say the pilots gave the champagne as a gift to soothe over any ill feelings from farmers whose fields they just landed in (“Sorry about destroying your entire harvest for the season. Please get three sheets to the wind as a way of apology. Hope you survive the winter!”). Other sources have a different take. Up to this point, air travel wasn’t a thing. So, seeing these enormous and strange floating vessels touch down in Aunt Millie’s rutabaga patch tended to cause alarm. The champagne was a token to let the unexpected hosts know they weren’t being invaded by mythical creatures or Thanos’ army.

For all the information about this year’s Greater Lansing Balloon Festival, visit


Tags: hot air balloon

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