In the Herald - It’s not just a load of hot air

Date Published 
Thu 22 Sep 2022

On a warm and sunny late August Saturday afternoon a small number of Irvine Camera Club members set off to Strathaven for the return of the annual hot-air balloon festival following a gap of 2 years due to the pandemic. 

Strathaven is small town and over the weekend of the festival it is deluged with a swarm of visitors.  Knowing that parking could be a significant challenge we took advantage of the park-and-ride service laid on by the festival volunteers.

Delivered by bus to the centre of town we only had a short walk to the park where the hot-air balloons were beginning to be unpacked and set up following that morning’s dawn flight.  One of our members had arrived early and had already managed to capture some of the action of the sky diving team before the rest of use found our way to the park. 

With food stalls and fairground rides there was plenty to do while we waited for the balloons to begin their set-up routine.  Around about 6pm each balloon was laid out on the grass and partially inflated with enormous petrol engine fans.  It was fascinating to watch the huge colourful balloons begin to take shape.  When a balloon had reached a certain level of inflation the fan was turned off and wheeled away to be replaced by massive gas burners fixed to the baskets, the cockpit and cabin for the pilot and passengers.

The roar of the burner and heat from the flames added to the drama of the scene as the mighty balloons quicky rose from the ground.  Each balloon was tethered to a vehicle to stop them flying away until the pilot and the festival coordinator gave the signal to release the tether.  With the burner full on, balloon after balloon rose into the blue summer sky.  The occupants waving to the crowds below as they gently drifted away.  It was an amazing sight to witness and, of course, to photograph. 

We then had a long wait for the balloons to be returned later in the evening to the field.  During that time we got some food and took photos of the activities laid on to keep the festival goers entertained.  The climax of the day was the evening Glow.  This is where several balloons were once again inflated but instead of flying off, their burners were fired in time to music.  This made for a fantastic sight as the colours of the balloons and the brightness of the flames looked spectacular against the night sky.

Irvine Camera Club has started its new season now at the Irvine Community Sports Club on Tuesday evenings.  We would love to welcome you to one of our club nights, so please do come along.  All our details are on our website