Hot air balloon takes K-State students to new heights

Evert Nelson | Collegian A patriotic hot air balloon glows from within as it lifts a group of students into the sky over the front lawn of Anderson Hall on Monday night. Hundreds of people lined up in front of the hall to take a ride. The event was organized by the Union Program Council and was originally scheduled to take place last August, but poor weather forced the UPC to reschedule the rides.

On Monday night, a red, white and blue hot air balloon lifted K-State students 100 feet in the air over the front lawn of Anderson Hall. The Union Program Council, which hosted the balloon rides, originally planned to hold the event last August during the fall activities fair but had to reschedule it due to inclement weather.

“It was awesome,” said Laura Oxler, member of the UPC entertainment committee and senior in journalism and mass communications. “We were the test run so I was kind of nervous, but it was really fun to see Manhattan from that high in the air. From the ground, it just didn’t seem that high up there.”

In order to erect the 75-foot-tall balloon, workers first had to use a large metal fan to inflate it partially. The balloon slowly expanded for 40 minutes until it was safe to turn on the flame, which heated the air in the balloon, causing it to inflate further and begin rising.

Once the balloon was ready, the UPC committee that planned the event took the first trip into the air. Afterwards, groups of six went up for one to two minutes before touching down.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Kaitlin Shea, a UPC member who helped plan the event and senior in public relations. “I’ve never ridden in one and it was cool to see campus from so high.”

As students exited the balloon, volunteers leapt onto the sides of the basket in order to keep it grounded while students departed. Volunteers jumped into the basket as students jumped out in order to maintain the appropriate weight and prevent the balloon, which was tethered to a large tree, a lamppost and two trucks, from flying into the air unexpectedly.

Hundreds of students got the chance to ride the balloon over four hours.

“It was kind of scary,” said K-State alum Jameson Sedlacek. “When we got to the top, it didn’t look as high as it did from the ground, but it was still high at the top.”

Sedlacek, who said he is scared of heights, was convinced to go on the ride by his friend Andrew Kohls, an international student adviser.

“It was fantastic,” Kohls said. “It was a great turnout. I was disappointed that they cancelled it earlier this year but really glad they had it today because it’s a refreshing thing to do right before finals.”