I call it Birk Lake because a group of us would go to Jim Birk’s lake and fly balloons, eat, drink and be merry, long before there was a formal festival. We still go to Birk’s lake and now enjoy all the fun of the Defiance Hot Air Balloon Festival.
Past years have included skeet shooting, antique inflation fans, sweet corn competition and much more.
I should explain the title to those who may not understand. BattleCreek is a city in Michigan and each year around the 4th of July they host an air show and Hot Air Balloon Competition. I’ll fill you in on how balloonists compete further down, I also need to explain “Birk”.
James “Jim” Birk has been my great friend since birds and balloons were the only things that flew. He has also been the Balloon Meister at BattleCreek for many years and this was his last year being in charge at this competition. Jim is a singular force of nature when it comes to ballooning and balloonists, his intellect and wry wit enable him to corral the pilots whose egos are more inflated then their balloons. It is that ability to control the uncontrollable that have people address him as Jim when talking with him and “Birk” when explaining to others what happened. I have lots of stories about him, some that can be told and others ………..
Hot Air Balloon Competitions started like many other types of competitions have started after pilots gathering in social situations telling of their exploits in their balloons and someone said prove it.
It is a test of flying skills and getting your balloon steer in a left, right, up and down to get to a target and drop a marker. Competition has changed over the years, in the past observers were in the balloons to check on the pilots, those have been replaced with GPS. The balloons for competition have also changed, smaller balloons can go up and down faster and the Linstrand Balloon factory designed what are called racers that can drop like a rock and shoot up like a rocket.
I go every year to BattleCreek to compete and to visit with my bigger balloon family. Here are a few pictures from the event.
The Crew The Carnival Here is Matt Balloons in the air
Each year or 100 hours (whichever happens first) the balloon must be inspected by a certified inspection station. Its great for us to be close to the Lindstrand factory and can take our balloons there to be checked.
My good friend Jack (from the UK) was traveling here in the U.S. and stopped in for a few days visit.
Jack was making the grand trip spending time ti Pennsylvanian , Texas and Iowa. Seldom alone, his travel mate from England Bob (not to be confused with English Bob) stayed home and missed an excellent balloon ride.