By Cris Cawthon
Media flights went up Friday morning to kick off Centralia’s 34th Annual Balloon Fest.
I had the pleasure of flying with Pilot Andrew Robinson and passenger Keaton Kauling. We went at a top speed of 19.7 miles per hour, with an altitude of 1,400 feet and covered 10½ miles.
Andrew Robinson is a Centralia native. He has been a pilot for six years, and he flies the balloon, Fire and Ice. As a young child Andrew was fascinated with hot air balloons. He stated that he has been to every Balloon Fest since age five and flew for the first time at that age.
As Andrew grew older, he crewed with other pilots until one day he told his wife Courtney that he wanted to be a balloon pilot. Andrew expressed his gratitude for his trainer Jim Phelan. Andrew’s balloon, Fire and Ice, was customized by him and his wife and made in Galina, Illinois. The basket came from New Mexico and was once used in the Albuquerque Balloon Fest.
This year’s Balloon Fest has over 100 food and craft vendors, 35 hot air balloons and over five live entertainment performances. The Balloon Fest would not be as spectacular without all the volunteers, sponsors, vendors, entertainment, and balloon pilots.
My flight ended with the story of how ballooning came about, and Andrew said the Balloonist’s Prayer: “The winds have welcomed you with softness, the sun has blessed you with his warm rays, we have flown so high and so well that God has joined you in his laughter and set you gently back in the loving arms of mother earth.”