Welcome to Wiser Now’s weekly email blast which reflects my eclectic interests and, I hope, yours. In early October we celebrate both the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta featuring the soaring hot air version and Balloons Around the World Day which seems to be about sharing toy balloons as an act of kindness. The first has (sadly) been postponed by the pandemic, and research on the second led me into a whole new world. This post will attempt to twist them together. Pictured here: a two-story-tall model of the Lewis Ginter Conservatory recreated as a balloon sculpture in the atrium of the Regency Square Mall, Richmond, VA.  Be sure to click on the Resources links for many more great pictures and additional info this eblast format has too little space for.

I hope you are finding these offerings fun, and perhaps even useful, and I welcome your feedback. ( And if you haven’t yet pressed the subscribe button so this newsletter doesn’t go to spam, please do so now.


The Quirky Quote

"My grandfather invented the cold air balloon... But it never really took off."
~ Milton Jones

The Quirky Observation

As a person who can barely tie a knot in a balloon to keep the air from rudely fa*ting out and flying around the room, I have always admired the people who seem to be able to effortlessly create balloon animals, hats, and flowers to entertain audiences young and old. But a little research quickly takes balloon sculpting to a whole new level. These artists, known as twisters, who assist with giant installations and/or who have the vision to mimic works of art with a bit of inflated latex – or 40,000 bits! – are mindboggling. See Resources for some wonderful links or Google these twisters’ names: Larry Moss, Kelly Cheatle, Guido Verhoef, Phileas Flash (pictured with Van Gogh in balloons), and HongSeok Goh (a blind South Korean twister – See sample next to Resources).

The Quirky Wonderful Fact 1

You can use balloons to make chocolate “tulip” cups for holding ice cream, berries, or anything else you wish. Here’s a quick demonstration:

The Quirky Wonderful Fact 2
The balloon flower is named for what it looks like before opening. After opening it’s more star-like.

The Quirky Weird Fact 
The Eternal Ascent Society  offers another way to use a balloon for disposing of the cremated remains of your loved one or pet. They place them in a biodegradable 5-foot balloon, fill the balloon with helium and release it to the heavens. At approximately six miles up the temperature is minus 40 degrees, the balloon fractures and the cremains are scattered to the four winds. No, I’m not making that up.

The Question
Balloons seem to be universally cheering. Is that your feeling? Do you have any special memories about balloons?

The Quiz 

China began experimenting with hot air technology more than two thousand years ago, with the first documented tests performed as early as the 3rd century BCE, but those were essentially airborne lanterns that were used as a signal for help needed, and are now used for beauty. Skipping forward in time, can you guess the answers to this quiz?

1. The first known hot air balloon with living creatures flew on a tether for 8 minutes, rising 1500 feet, and traveling 2 miles before being brought safely down. This was in 1783 near Versailles, with members of the French court in attendance. Which of the following was NOT an animal in the basket of that hot air balloon?

Duck ___      Piglet ___     Rooster ___  Sheep ___

2. On November 21, 1783, Francois Pilatrê de Rozier and Francois Laurent, Marquis of Arlanders, flying over Paris, made the first free flight carrying humans. They stood on a circular platform attached to the bottom of the paper and silk balloon made by the Montgolfier brothers and handfed the flames as they traveled 5+ miles in 25 minutes. Just 10 days later, two Frenchmen successfully rode a hot air balloon 25 miles powered by hydrogen gas, which would soon become the preferred method of heating the balloon. How long did it take for manned hot air balloons to come to the American States? 

A little more than 2 years ___               About 5 years ___   Nearly 10 years ___

3. According to one article, as hot air balloons became a fad, French aristocracy soon learned that local farmers didn’t much like rich people setting balloons down on their land and crushing their crops. The aristocracy appeased the farmers with champagne upon landing, giving birth to a tradition.

True ___      False ___

4. It wasn’t until 1950 that Paul E. (Ed) Yost and three others formed Raven Industries in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and developed the modern hot air balloon and the propane gas burner which made sustained flight possible.

True ___      False ___

5. The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta has grown from a small gathering of 13 balloons in 1972 to become the largest balloon event in the world, now featuring about 600 balloons and 700 pilots.  

True ___      False ___

6. It’s dangerous to fly hot air balloons in the rain because the balloon becomes much harder to control as the accumulating water on top cools down it down and makes it heavier, which not only burns much more fuel but also makes the balloon less safe.

True ___      False ___

Answers at the end of this email.

The Shameless Request

Please share Wiser Now Wednesday with anyone you think might be interested, and if you represent an organization that would like a customized version, please send me a note at

Bonus Tip
Balloons can be a fun Halloween costume if you don’t mind not sitting down all night.

The Quirky Resources

Answers to the quiz
  1. Piglet
  2. Nearly 10 years - January 9, 1793
  3. Some say the farmers thought the balloons were dragons
  4. Make that 1960
  5. True, but the number is down from 1000+ balloons in 2000 because of limited landing space.
  6. True according to one article, but another made a different scientific argument, and no one mentioned lightning. Bottom line: Fly in fair weather!
A few more statistics:
  • Record height: 69,850 feet achieved November 26th, 2005 by Vijaypat Singhania leaving from Mumbai, India
  • First nonstop around the world hot air balloon flight: Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones – March 1st, 1999, Switzerland to Egypt (around the world), ~25,000 miles in 20 days
  • First nonstop solo balloon flight around the world: Steve Fossett – July 1st, 2002, Australia to Australia, 20,482.26 statute miles, 14 days
My multiple goals are to amuse and inspire you, to share what I and people whom I admire am doing, to stimulate your curiosity and spur you to action. I hope you enjoyed this offering. You can access previous issues here. We welcome your feedback. (
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Copyright (c) 2019 Kathy Laurenhue | All rights reserved.

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