Balloon Chasing in Essex Center

Karin ran through her house calling out to everyone to pile in her car to chase down a balloon – it was going to land close by – and there was no time to waste. Maya was jaded; she had seen far too many balloon landings during her  fourteen years to be torn away from her Dr. Who episode on her iPad.


“Come on Nikki, let’s go!”

“You can pick that up later, grab your camera and jump in the car!” Karin says as she stops in front of my writing table, demanding that I come with her.

“I bet you haven’t seen a balloon come down in Massachusetts!”


I told Karin that I’d be right out; I was right in the middle of setting up a wireless printing network, but it could wait. I grabbed Karin’s Canon and ran out to her car.




Backing out of Karin’s driveway feels a bit like hari-kari, she bolts at a gravel spitting high speed in reverse, performs a tight sluice and we face into traffic coming at us on out left, with right lane traffic invisible in the hollow and out of sight just beyond her driveway entrance. I prefer to make a 3-point turn in her yard myself to preserve my decorum, but here I am the passenger on a wild ride. Karin turns right and drives in bursts eyes on the sky searching for the balloon over the trees and housetops.


We locate the balloon as it is floundering over someone’s backyard, Karin stops suddenly and heads toward a development made up of eight, maybe nine light brown houses clumped together as if for solidarity, all alike except for porch furniture and cars parked here and there. Our wild entrance interrupts some teens gathered around a car, some sitting on top, some leaning against, girls all tarted up, boys wary of intruders. The balloon isn’t here.


Karin turns into the cul-de-sac, and once past the teens rejoins a line of cars with occupants searching the skies. The balloon has gained some altitude and is headed toward town so we follow on our adventure. Once we crest a little hill up by the elementary school the balloon hovers, large and silent.


“They are going to land in the school playground!” Karin shouts as she points over to the field.


Sure enough, the people in the gondola throw out a lifeline to a ground crew guy on the ground and by taps of fire the balloon settles ever so gently on the green lawn.


Now the the fun begins – the helium is burned off which allows the balloon to deflate while the ground crew pulls and tugs at ropes and fabric working to set the spent balloon in a neat length to be rolled up as one would a sleeping bag.


The total elapsed time from balloon sighting to wrap up is less than a hour but it’s an hour that felt like mere minutes!