40th Annual Huff ’N Puff expects to reach new heights

Two balloons launch into Topeka skies at last year’s Huff ‘N Puff hot air balloon rally. 

Olivia Marshall

The annual Huff ‘N Puff hot air balloon show will be held at 6:00 p.m. on Sept. 11-13 at Tinman Circle near Lake Shawnee, in order to exhibit the multitude of balloons held in Kansas.

At this event, hot air balloon pilots will share their unique sport with enthusiasts from around the state. The Great Plains Balloon Club’s annual Huff ’N Puff will showcase balloons by launching them into the skies. The event brings hot air balloons together to entertain the public and promote the sport of hot air ballooning.

Both Friday and Saturday night at 6:00 p.m., the event will showcase the “balloon glow” where balloons are grounded and illuminated in the night for viewing.

Saturday and Sunday, balloon launches will start at 7:00 a.m. Tethered rides, where the balloons stay tied to the ground, can be reserved by donating at least $10.

James Kennedy, president of the Great Plains Balloon Club, has been involved with ballooning for 25 years. He believes that ballooning feels like floating on a cloud.

“I do it because I’m passionate about ballooning. I had my first balloon ride in ’91 and I knew I would get a balloon eventually,” said Kennedy.

Keith Willis, a crew member with Great Plains Balloon Club, helps set up balloons for launch and chases them on the ground. He has been a part of the Great Plains Balloon Club for 18 years.

“Crewing is a hard job with a lot of work to it,” Willis explained. “Balloons weigh a lot, but it’s fun and I get to go for rides every once in a while.”

Kennedy doesn’t crew as frequently since he bought his own balloon, “Spectrum.”

“I miss that part that I don’t do anymore. The camaraderie as we chase the balloons is fun; especially trying to figure out where that balloon is going and being there ahead of time,” Kennedy fondly stated.

Balloon rallies in Kansas are common, but Huff ’n Puff is by far the club’s biggest event. Topeka has one of the highest per capita balloon populations in all of the state. Of the 30,000 registered balloons in the world, only 10,000 are active, with only 5,000 pilots registered worldwide.

For those interested, balloon crew training is Aug. 26 at 6:00 p.m. at Tinman Circle, near Lake Shawnee. Come learn about hot air balloons and get an up-close look at this exclusive sport. Those interested in learning about ballooning or watching setup are welcome to come to this unique event.