MT. VERNON — Over 30 volunteers attended a special training session Sunday in preparation for Balloons Over Mt. Vernon Oct. 18 and 19.
The hour-long course, taught by event organizers Jennifer and Kevin Witzel, was held at the Mt. Vernon Airport. It covered a number of key factors related to hot air ballooning, but safety was the dominant theme.
“Safety is the number one thing we're going to stress,” said Jennifer Witzel. “Some people have never touched a balloon. Some people have helped with a balloon. So it's just going to be a wide variety of folks.”
The volunteers attending Sunday's course will be part of the crews assisting hot air balloon pilots during Balloons Over Mt. Vernon. At least 10 pilots are expected to participate.
The event, held the same weekend as Fall Fest, will begin Friday, Oct. 18, with a balloon flight over downtown Mt. Vernon at 5 p.m., followed by a Balloon Glow for United Way at 6:30 p.m.
Then, on Saturday, Oct. 19, pilots will take a flight across the area starting from the airport at 7 a.m. There will then be another flight over downtown Mt. Vernon at 4:30 p.m.
To make the flights more fun, pilots will be given disposable cameras and be asked to take part in a photo contest. The pilots who take the best pictures of certain area landmarks — like the new water tower or the ferris wheel downtown — will win prizes.
Crew volunteers will perform a variety of tasks during the event. Among them are helping to assemble and inflate the balloons, riding in the chase vehicle and tracking the balloons as they fly, and helping with the landing and clean up.
“It sounds like it's going to be a great event for Mt. Vernon,” said Marcia Scott of Bluford, who attended the course with her husband, Mike. “But I think I have a lot to learn.”