Posted today: Sonoma Balloon Festival 2005 on Zenfolio.
This was my first trip up to Windsor, CA to see and photograph what turned out to be one of the most spectacular sights I had encountered in my brief photography life; the Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic.
To get the full experience you must get there early enough to watch the Dawn Patrol. These early risers begin their weekend mornings before daylight to launch at 5 a.m. (which means I had to be on the road to Windsor about an hour and a half earlier!) The dedicated balloon pilots use heat to fill their balloons during the dark, sometimes foggy morning hours, which makes for a breathtaking sight. For those who consider 5 a.m. too early and have not yet risen, many more balloons lift off during the Main Launch at 6:30 a.m. While the balloons float overhead, the launch park hosts food, music, and crafts vendors who turn out to serve spectators and enjoy the festivities, which run until 11 am.
The Sonoma County Hot Air Balloon Classic (SCHABC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to building awareness in and promoting the sport of hot air ballooning, in addition to helping raise money for local charitable organizations. SCHABC is made up of many dedicated volunteers from all walks of life. Dedicated balloon pilots usually own their own balloons and donate their money, time, crew, and fuel to attend and help promote hot air ballooning during the Classic.