Hot-air balloons soaring over Winters again

Launching hot-air balloons lift off in Winters. Photo by Rick von Geldern/Winters Express

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This past Sunday five hot-air balloons launched from the field north of Moody Slough Road.

For years, balloon launching in Winters has been a welcomed sunrise attraction for many residents. Children and adults alike seem to enjoy the view from the ground as a parade of balloons glide gracefully over the town.

Rob Valentine and his son, Avery, recently moved to Winters and were up early to watch the launching from their front yard. Valentine said he has been following hot-air balloons for some time and is looking forward to more so close to his home.

Over the past few years there have been as many as a dozen hot-air balloons launching on a given morning, however, the frequency of balloon launches in Winters had noticeably decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Balloon companies offer various ride packages. Yolo Balloon Adventures in Dixon has partnered with Turkovich Family Wines and meets pre-flight at their downtown tasting room. Balloon passengers have an opportunity to grab light refreshments before being shuttled to the launching pad.

A ground crew prepares the balloons, so passengers have little to do once they arrive but hop into the basket and prepare to enjoy the ride.

Once the balloons land, a van picks the riders up and shuttles them back to the Turkovich tasting room where they can enjoy a celebratory toast.

Napa Valley balloon companies also launch from Winters when fog prevents them from launching in Napa. In that case, they transport their passengers and balloons to Winters and launch.

Hot-air balloons consist of a fabric balloon with an opening at the bottom allowing a heat-fueled propane flame to inject heat through the opening. As the temperature inside increases it becomes less dense than the outside air temperature and the balloon floats because of the buoyant force exerted on it. A basket connected to the balloon carries the pilot and passengers.

Hot-air balloon pilots are licensed and must carry a commercial pilot’s certificate issued by the Federal Aviation Administration to carry passengers.

The good news is that we should start seeing more early morning hot-air balloons above Winters, adding to the charm that Winters offers.

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