Gulf Coast competition winner takes to skies

Lisa Kirkland of Robertsdale, who won a balloon ride at the recent Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival, had her first flight experience last week. The lucky winner entered the contest, which was organised by Gulf Coast newspapers to honour the event’s ninth anniversary, on Facebook.

The event was observed by editor of The Foley Onlooker, Cathy Higgens, who chronicled Lisa’s flight with William Moore, senior editor of Gulf Coast News Today, who travelled in the balloon. The journey’s pilot was American balloonist Frank Anger, and pictures of the trio and his balloon can be seen on the newspaper’s website.

Despite the slight wind, the ride was described as being extremely smooth, with the journey beginning from the Foley Beach express and casting views over sites such as Highway 59.

The flight itself was very quiet, aside from the occasional noise of the burners. As the passengers flew 100ft above the ground, however, it was still possible to make out the sound of people cheering and dogs barking.

After the balloon had passed Highway 59, the wind changed slightly, bringing the balloon up and down constantly and prompting the pilot to find a more southerly breeze to bring them all closer to the festival site.

The wind meant that they couldn’t drift over the large bulls-eye target set up on the ground; instead they drifted north of the Sportsplex. Despite the fear of a faraway and rough landing, Anger managed to land the balloon in a peanut field with what he described as a “bump and a slight skid”.

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