Sunday, July 29, 2007


I doubt that many people reading this (not that many people do read this) would recognized that the title of this post, "It Is Balloon!!!" is a reference to the classic sixties television situation comedy, F-Troop. It was a popular program when I was a kid, and continued to be popular in reruns on one of the local channels in New York City (was it WPIX?). Like many sitcoms of that time, it was a complete farce, in this case a parody of the westerns that dominated the motion picture industry for decades, and specifically the subgenre of the cavalry movie. In this version, the Captain was foolish, the Sargent and Corporal were operators and con artists (shades of Sgt. Bilko), and the Indians were peaceful, reasonable, more or less modern, and business partners of the Sargent and Corporal. Back in those days, the premise of the sitcom would be pretty much summed up in the opening credits, often in the theme song. The F-Troop theme song's lyrics went like this:

The end of the Civil War was near
When quite accidentally,
A hero who sneezed abruptly seized
Retreat and reversed it to victory.

His medal of honor pleased and thrilled
his proud little family group.
While pinning it on some blood was spilled
And so it was planned he'd command F Troop.

Where Indian fights are colorful sights
and nobody takes a lickin'
Where pale face and redskin
Both turn chicken.

When killing and fighting get them down,
They know their morale can't droop.
As long as they all relax in town
Before they resume with a bang and a boom
F Troop.
So, anyway, there was one episode that revolved around a hot-air balloon, which after all was a new technology in the 19th century, first used for surveillance during the Civil War, I believe. The balloon was a symbol of the modern, which provides some insight into the ending of The Wizard of Oz, where it plays a role not that different from Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days. As for F-Troop, to be perfectly honest, I remember nothing of the plot of the balloon episode, only that it climaxed with the balloon rising up in the sky, and the Indians looking up in wonder and shouting, "IT IS BALLOON!!!" And the reason I remember this scene is that it was one of the highlights used in the promotional spot that the TV station used to run over and over for the program. So it is burned into my memory. But it also was a very funny moment, at least from the point of view of a young boy, and I remember that line being repeated by me and my friends endlessly. It still makes me laugh, thinking about it.

So all this is a rather long-winded and irrelevant introduction to the fact that our family went to see hot-air balloons yesterday, at the New Jersey Balloon Festival, or to use its full and proper name, the 25th annual Quick Chek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning (and don't you hate the corporate usurpation of proper names?). No, we didn't ride in one, not our cup of tea, we just went to watch. And here's some of what we saw.

As the sun was going down, three balloons were inflated, that the others would chase after.

and here they go:

and now, the many other balloons started to inflate:

and those that were fully inflated started to lift off, while others were just beginning to inflate on the ground. In this shot, you can see that dusk is approaching:

And now, would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon? No, me neither, but how wonderful, truly full of wonder, it is to watch them slowly rise into the sky:

Some, like the Pepsi can, never got off the ground (which was part of the plan).

Most of the balloons that remained on the ground were specialty balloons, and many of them demonstrating the value of a good corporate logo, icon, and especially, mascot:

The wind picked up a little as the sun went down:

This next shot captures the hot air mechanism at work, but more on that later:

And who doesn't love Mr. Peanut™? Actually, my son doesn't because he's allergic to peanuts.

Those bees look like bears to me, but it's all about the honey. Anyway, all of the balloons in the air came down, leaving only the ground-based ones, while over on the concert stage Blues Traveler started their concert. It was great listening to them live (we weren't seated in the concert area), especially when they did their big hit from the nineties, "Run-around" (in case you're not familiar with it, here are the lyrics:

Words & Music by J. Popper

Once upon a midnight dearie
I woke with something in my head
I couldn't escape the memory
Of a phone call and of what you said
Like a game show contestant with a parting gift
I could not believe my eyes
When I saw through the voice of a trusted friend
Who needs to humor me and tell me lies
Yeah humor me and tell me lies
And I'll lie too and say I don't mind
And as we seek so shall we find
And when you're feeling open I'll still be here
But not without a certain degree of fear
Of what will be with you and me
I still can see things hopefully

But you
Why you wanna give me a run-around
Is it a sure-fire way to speed things up
When all it does is slow me down

And shake me and my confidence
About a great many things
But I've been there I can see it cower
Like a nervous magician waiting in the wings
Of a bad play where the heroes are right
And nobody thinks or expects too much
And Hollywood's calling for the movie rights
Singing hey babe let's keep in touch
Hey baby let's keep in touch
But I want more than a touch I want you to reach me
And show me all the things no one else can see
So what you feel becomes mine as well
And soon if we're lucky we'd be unable to tell
What's yours and mine the fishing's fine
And it doesn't have to rhyme so don't you feed me a line

But you
Why you wanna give me a run-around
Is it a sure-fire way to speed things up
When all it does is slow me down

Tra la la la la bomba dear this is the pilot speaking
And I've got some news for you
It seems my ship still stands no matter what you drop
And there ain't a whole lot that you can do
Oh sure the banner may be torn and the wind's gotten colder
Perhaps I've grown a little cynical
But I know no matter what the waitress brings
I shall drink in and always be full
My cup shall always be full

Oh I like coffee
And I like tea
I'd like to be able to enter a final plea
I still got this dream that you just can't shake
I love you to the point you can no longer take
Well all right okay
So be that way
I hope and pray
That there's something left to say

But you
Why you wanna give me a run-around
Is it a sure-fire way to speed things up
When all it does is slow me down

But you
Why you wanna give me a run-around
Is it a sure-fire way to speed things up
When all it does is slow me down

And, it was a bit of a gimmick, but hey, what the hey, with the air cleared of balloons, and the concert already begun, they had a skydiver descend to the field, and then head over to the concert area to deliver John Popper's harmonic to him, so he could play it on "Run-around" (and other songs). Here are some pictures showing the patriotic theme unfolding:

The guys (there were a couple of others coming down with him) doing this actually had jets in their boots which went off as they got close to the ground, but we didn't get any shots of that.

Anyway, as the sunlight faded, still more ground-based balloons inflated, including the Energizer bunny and a birthday cake:

And, as you can see, the darker it got, the more impressive the balloons looked as the hot-air mechanisms would fire up periodically, shooting flames up inside of the balloon, and lighting them up in the night:

Such enormous constructions, filled with a whole lot of nothing (shades of Seinfeld!), that's where the expression, you're full of hot air comes from. But hot air is nothing to sneeze at, being lighter than air normally is, this was the first form of antigravity to be developed, genuine levitation. How amazing it is, if you just stop and think about it. How dignified and stately. What was high-tech in the 19th century seems so quaint to us, but there's much to be said for the sense of time that's associated with ballooning, not rushed, just going with the flow. No wonder the top 40 pop song "Up, Up, and Away" became so emblematic of sixties optimism and the beginnings of the counterculture. I know it kitschy, but we don't shy away from kitsch, we make the hard decisions here on Blog Time Passing, so here goes:

The Fifth Dimension - Up, Up And Away Lyrics

Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon
Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon
We could float among the stars together, you and I
For we can fly we can fly
Up, up and away
My beautiful, my beautiful balloon
The world's a nicer place in my beautiful balloon
It wears a nicer face in my beautiful balloon
We can sing a song and sail along the silver sky
For we can fly we can fly
Up, up and away
My beautiful, my beautiful balloon
Suspended under a twilight canopy
We'll search the clouds for a star to guide us
If by some chance you find yourself loving me
We'll find a cloud to hide us
We'll keep the moon beside us
Love is waiting there in my beautiful balloon
Way up in the air in my beautiful balloon
If you'll hold my hand we'll chase your dream across the sky
For we can fly we can fly
Up, up and away
My beautiful, my beautiful balloon
Up, up, and away.....
So, yes, up, up, and away, because... IT IS BALLOON!!!!


Anonymous said...

Heres anther one next week for you to see with Pat Benetar Joan Jett and Kenny wayne Shepard

Anonymous said...

Just searched "It is Balloon" to find an "F-Troop" link after returning from the Great Falls Balloon Fest in Maine. On the ride home to Connecticut I was thinking about the title for my blog and see you had the same idea.

Steve Barton said...

Great pix -- and it IS balloon!

Anonymous said... to see "It is Balloon"