Balloon flights kick off Hot Air Jubilee. Organizers are hoping for more

JACKSON, MI – The Hot Air Jubilee has literally taken off, and officials are keeping their fingers crossed for an event full of flights this year.

The 2022 Hot Air Jubilee started in Jackson with a media flight on Thursday evening, July 21. Around a dozen balloons hit the sky, thanks to great weather, and pilots are hoping it stays that way for the rest of the weekend, Balloon Meister Steven Sitko said.

“This event is a community event, and it stinks not flying,” Sitko said. “It’s not a pleasant feeling as a balloon pilot because we want to fly. Nevertheless, we try to have other activities to put on for the community.”

Related: Food, music and balloons: Here’s your guide to Jackson’s 2022 Hot Air Jubilee

Balloons also took to the sky at 7 am Friday, July 22, making it the first public Jubilee launch since 2018. The media flight also took off in 2021.

Balloon launches from Ella Sharp Park, 2800 Fourth St., are also scheduled for 7 pm Friday, 7 am and 7 pm Saturday, July 23, and 7 am Sunday, July 24, weather permitting. Entertainment, food, balloon glows and classic cars are also features of the weekend-long event that’s been happening in Jackson for nearly 40 years.

Pilots and community members are itching to see balloons continue to hit the sky, Sitko said.

“For me, it’s amazing. I love flying, but I love seeing that sparkle in the kids’ eyes and adults’ eyes when I land and they can see the balloons,” Sitko said.

Related: Peek Through Time: July in Jackson means Jubilee where hot air balloons have filled the sky since 1983

However, the hot air balloons can’t just take off whenever they want, pilot and Weather Officer Tom Brown said. Wind speeds, heat, humidity and rain play a big factor in whether or not they can take off, Brown said.

“Often times you will hear words like gust, that means inconsistent, and we won’t fly. We can fly in 10 mph winds, but if there is a gust of 20, it’s not conducive to flying,” Brown said. “We can fly in 10 mph, but we prefer to have less than that.”

The National Weather Service long-range forecast for Jackson for the weekend calls for sunny skies Friday with a high of 88 and calm winds. Saturday calls for a 30% chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly before 2 pm, with a high of 89, and high winds. Sunday calls for showers and thunderstorms, with a high of 86 and high winds.

Pilots typically do not look at the weather up until flight time, Sitko said. If the weather is not safe, pilots will not fly, but there will still be opportunities to see the balloons during night glows and static displays, he said.

Updates on balloon launches and events can be found on the Hot Air Jubilee’s Facebook page.

Pilot Michael O’Brien is looking forward to possibly flying the whole weekend this year, he said. This is his second year participating in the Jubilee, and he is hoping to leave the ground for a bigger crowd.

“Obviously, we only got to glow last year, which is a lot of fun, but flying is a little bit more fun,” O’Brien said. “So, we’re excited and hoping for good weather this weekend too.”

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