ROCHESTER — On the first recorded balloon flight in history in 1783, two French brothers, Jacques and Joseph Montgolfier, decided not to risk their own lives and sent a duck, a rooster and a sheep 35 feet into the air. Fortunately, the animals all landed safely, and manned balloon flight began a few months later.
Justin Delinois, a second-grader at Corpus Christi School, was inspired by this story and said he wanted to take his dogs Diamond and Hairy on his inaugural balloon flight. He added that he wanted to actually live inside a balloon.
“It has a lot of space,” he said.
Justin wasn’t just dreaming — he made this statement while he was inside a balloon that was partially inflated on the gym floor in the school, which is located on the grounds of Blessed Sacrament Church. Jim and Toni Stevens-Oliver, parents of Corpus preschooler Marcy Oliver, brought their hot-air balloon and its basket to Corpus June 8. They were able to fit the school’s 147 students inside the balloon, as well as some faculty members and at least one curious reporter.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Angel Perez, a sixth-grader. “This is the first time I’ve been in a balloon.”
“I wish this was my room!” Amber Francis, a sixth-grader, added excitedly. “You could fit everything in it — have a basketball court. You could have a big party!”
Dominique Perez, a second-grader, was skeptical of making the balloon her residence.
“What if the fan runs out?” she said, noting the powerful electrical fan that was blowing air into the balloon. “Then it might squish me.”
The balloon was a big hit with the student body of Corpus Christi. Prior to inflating it, the Olivers gave a PowerPoint presentation about the history of ballooning and talked about “Up-C-Dazey,” their balloon, which their daughter had named. The Olivers gave aspiring balloonists several tips:
* Wear long pants and gloves to protect you when you land — and bend your knees when you land to protect your legs from injury.
* Don’t heat the air inside too much or too fast, or it will melt the balloon.
* You can’t steer a balloon, so be prepared to go where the wind takes you.
* Fly your balloon at dawn or dusk, when the winds are calmest.
* Bring a bottle of champagne to give to the person who owns the field in which you land. This tradition dates back to the 18th century, when French farmers, fearing an invasion from the skies, would greet landing balloonists with pitchforks. A bottle of champagne let the farmers know the balloonists were fellow Frenchmen with no ill intent, Jim Oliver said.
The couple’s PowerPoint presentation drew “oohs,” “aahs” and other exclamations from the children, who enjoyed seeing pictures of balloons shaped like cartoon characters or the space shuttle or Noah’s Ark. Jade Hlywa, a sixth-grader, wanted to know if she could put a gigantic picture of herself on a balloon.
“If you wanted, you could put your face on the balloon,” Toni Stevens-Oliver said.
“Jade, please don’t do that,” joked her classmate Daza’h Hayes.
After exiting the partially inflated balloon, the children went outside to the parking lot where Jim Oliver ignited the propane engines on top of the wicker basket, or gondola car, that’s suspended from the balloon. The engines heat the air inside the balloon.
As the children waited to take turns climbing into the basket, Kharysma Bryant, a second-grader, said she would love to ride in a balloon someday.
“You can get to see everything up there,” she said. “I would go to Ohio because it’s nice there.”
Second-grader Robert Bodine added that he would go to Oklahoma because his uncle lives there. His classmate, Mark Jarvis, said he was happy that everyone was able to fit inside the balloon, and added that he would also like to ride in one to Hawaii.
“I could swim there, and it’s close to the ocean,” he said. “I could find dolphins and a lot of creatures.”
Jani Ridgeway, a second-grader, called the balloon, “a fantastic thing.”
“The fabric feels really nice, and we could all fit in it,” she said.
Marcy Oliver, the Olivers’ 5-year-old daughter, said she enjoyed her first balloon ride with her daddy because she could see trees, leaves and cows from up in the sky.
“It wasn’t scary,” she said.