The popping colours, the silent gliding punctuated by staccato puffs of fire, the frisson of dangling in a basket subject to the vagaries of weather… there is definitely something in the air in the Grand Est. What a sight to behold, as hundreds of hot air balloons take to the sky above the golden fields of Lorraine.
For the 10-day duration of the Grand Est Mondial Air Ballons festival, every morning and afternoon as weather permits, a mass ascent takes place to whoops of delight from the multitude of onlookers. The empty expanse of the runways is suddenly crawling with gangly vehicles pulling their huge baskets on a trailer, and in no time a jumble of silk and rope blows up into the most spectacular kaleidoscope of multi-coloured giants.
To the untrained eye, these contraptions look no different than something Phileas Fogg could have clambered into on his 80-day adventure around the world. But these balloons and their pilots have moved on with the times. Case in point, 2019 ushered the use of low-emission biopropane, from the methanization of recycled industrial and vegetable oil products, lightening the carbon footprint of this form of flight. The effort to put this splendid meet together is awe inspiring. Imagine the logistics to equip this remote Chambley-Bussières airfield in eastern France with high-speed wi-fi, restaurants, a hot-air balloon museum, vintage aircraft, amusement rides and first flight experiences on autogyro and ultra-light airplanes. What’s more, road access is so smooth that it belies the massive numbers of visitors, up to 360,000 in one day, all unfolding in a cheery ‘bon enfant’ atmosphere. But there is also serious business afoot; a matter for the record books.
Grand Est Mondial Air Ballons doesn’t rest on its laurels and on this Monday morning of July 29, conditions are favourable to attempt to break its own world record of simultaneous ‘in-line’ takeoff. In less than one hour, 456 balloons launch aloft, just shy of a new best but tying with the world-record the festival previously held from 2017.
The event is staged every two years, so stay tuned for the next attempt in 2021.
Find out more: www.pilatre-de-rozieres.com