Tigard Life takes to the skies on first day of Festival of Balloons

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Tigard Life takes to the skies on first day of Festival of Balloons
Tigard Life takes to the skies on first day of Festival of Balloons
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The 40th annual Tigard Festival of Balloons kicked off early Friday morning with the first set of hot air balloon launches, and Tigard Life was taken on a ride by pilot Dale Justice. 

We set off at around 6:20 a.m. Friday from Cook Park on Justice’s rainbow-colored balloon, La Jolla, which means “the jewel.” Justice, 82, has been flying for 40-plus years, and has been taking La Jolla to festivals around the Northwest since he bought the balloon in 2015. 

“Back in 1981 a friend invited me to go up in a balloon and I was hooked so fast,” he said. “Flight intrigued me.”

We flew for about 90 minutes and ended up in Aurora, roughly nine and a half miles from our starting point in Cook Park. We reached a top altitude of around 1,500 feet, Justice said. While flying, each balloon has a chase crew that follows from the road to help tear down and pack up the balloon once it lands. 

Justice first landed Friday morning in a field at an equestrian training center somewhere near Wilsonville, but the chase team wasn’t allowed in the gate to retrieve us. So Justice sent La Jolla back up high enough to pick up a lift from the wind so we could make it over the Willamette River into a field over there. 

“You just kind of find a place that looks open and go for it,” he said. 

Justice lives in Newberg and said he has flown 11 or 12 times in the Tigard festival. Each morning of the festival – Friday, Saturday, and Sunday – visitors can watch as the balloons are inflated and them take off from Cook Park. The flights aren’t open to the public, unfortunately. 

There are still plenty of other fun options for festival guests. If you get there early enough, there is the chance to go up in a tethered balloon ride, which take place each morning of the festival, weather permitting. Registration for the tethered balloon rides start at 6:15 a.m. The rides are free for festival guests, and riders must be at least 3 years old and able to stand on their own. 

The tethered rides are first-come, first-serve, and are open from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. each morning. 

 There is also the popular Night Glow show Friday and Saturday nights at sundown. There visitors can see some of the hot air balloons inflated, again, weather permitting. While the balloons don’t take flight during the Night Glow, that means people can get up close to them and see how they work. 

Each day of the festival also has live music, vendors, food, carnival games, and carnival rides. 

For the full list of activities and events throughout the weekend, visit www.tigardballoon.org

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