When you think of balloon festivals, Albuquerque undoubtedly comes to mind, but this weekend, Gilbert hosts a balloon fest of its own.
The Arizona Balloon Classic is a three-day event with a “Hare and Hound” race, balloon rides, 50 food vendors, live music, a balloon glow and a kids zone.
Longtime Valley resident and balloon pilot Shane Cory, of AeroGelic Ballooning, is participating in the Classic. He chatted with the Tribune last week about his background and why balloon rides aren’t as scary as you might think.
Q: How did you get interested in ballooning?
A: My dad, Philip Cory, started the company in 1976 as Cory Bubble Hot Air Ballooning. He owned Cory Gasoline Stations, Inc. and bought a balloon to do sweetheart flights and corporate flights. Most kids have to mow the law to earn their allowance. I had to crew the balloon on the weekends for mine. By the time I was 12, my dad was flying corporate balloons for KNIX and Toyota. When I was 12 years old, he started teaching me how to tether the balloons. I was 20 when I did my first solo flight. It’s just gone from there.
Q: You took over ownership of the company in 2000. Why did you change the name to AeroGelic Ballooning?
A: We used that name because it would have been the first thing in the phone book, back when that was important. AeroGelic means to fly like an angel. We’re a very spiritual family and spiritual company; we’re very Christian.
Q: Is it true that Arizona flies more passengers in balloons than any state in the nation?
A: Yep. Everyone thinks Albuquerque is the capital and it’s not. The majority of their balloon days happen in the summer. Because of the weather in Arizona, we’re able to fly 320 days a year. That’s what’s so great about the Arizona Balloon Classic. We’re happy to have an event where we can show off the fact that we are the national balloon capital. We don’t want it to rival Albuquerque, but we want to have something the people of Arizona can be proud of. The Classic is a great family event. There’s no reason a family shouldn’t go.
Q: You’ll be participating in the Hare and Hound Race and will be giving sunrise and sunset rides to passengers this weekend. What do you say to people who are terrified of heights?
A: I always giggle and say you’ll probably like it more than the rest of them. I’ve flown thousands of people and thousands of them were scared. The ones that are scared are the ones that like it the most. It’s nothing like standing on the side of a cliff. It’s a very stable platform. There is no turbulence. It’s so calm, gentle and stable that you wouldn’t notice whether you were going up or down.
Q: Will you be offering any specials during the Classic?
A: A balloon rides is $179 a person, but we’ll be selling Christmas gift certificates at our booth for $125 (for a one-hour ride). That’s the only time we’ll be selling them at that price. What better thing to get someone than a memory?
IF YOU GO
What: 2012 Arizona Balloon Classic
When: 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7; 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8; and 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 9.
Where: Gilbert Civic Center, 90 E. Civic Center Drive.
Cost: $10 per person, free for active military, veterans and children 12 and younger, $7 for groups of 10 or more; one-hour balloon rides are $179 and must be purchased separately at http://aerogelicballooning.com.