Illinois couple makes balloon rally a tradition to remember - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Illinois couple makes balloon rally a tradition to remember

WAUSAU (WAOW) --  Hot air balloonists from across the country make the balloon fest in Wausau a tradition. For one Illinois couple, it's one they say they'll never miss or forget.

Not many have mastered the art of flying, but Jim Phelan and his wife, Teresa, make it look easy.

"It's not like an airplane, it's not like a helicopter,” explained Jim. “It's like floating on a cloud."

The couple started flying hot air balloons in the late 1990's.

“We knew a guy who is here this weekend, he was into ballooning and had been for ten years. He bought a balloon and put it up and we were hooked on ballooning ever since," explained Jim.

Now, the pair travel the country, balloon in tow. This weekend, you can find them at Wausau's Balloon and Rib Fest. Early Friday morning Newsline 9 caught up with them as they set up for their first flight.

The pair took off from the downtown airport about an hour after sunrise. They told me to wait until they got back. There were a few post flight traditions to take care of, they said.

Jim and Teresa returned from their ride with a bottle of champagne.

“Tradition,” said Teresa.

“If we catch the cork it means it's going to be a soft landing. If we miss the cork it's going to be a rough landing for the next flight,” explained Jim.

It was my responsibility to catch the cork. As the new kid on the block, I knew I couldn't mess it up.

“You ready? You ready? This is your chance now,” said Jim as he got the bottle ready.

As he popped the top I watched the cork fly through the air and right into my hands.

“I guess this means I'll be your pilot on the next ride,” said Jim.

Until that next ride, it's only right to cap this one off with a toast.

“The wind has blessed you with its softness,” Jim recited. “The sun has blessed you with its warm rays."

The hot air balloons will be back on display at the Wausau airport Friday and Saturday nights. They'll set up and hopefully fly, weather permitting, about two hours before sunset.

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