• Meet the 2023 Balloon Festival Pilots

    *as of 8/10/23


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  • Alien Alien

    Joel Berka

    Joel Berka has been around hot air balloons his entire life and is a second generation balloon pilot.

    He is a FAA certified commercial Balloon pilot and instructor. He has flown balloons of many different sizes and shapes including a giant Pig balloon named "Spyder Pig" and "Dingbat" a special shape balloon that encourages kids to "stay in school". 

    Joel attends many balloon festivals each year. He has flown in the United States, Canada, Mexico and New Zealand.   A few of his favorite flights are flying in the red rock canyons in Gallup N.M. and flying among 500+ balloons in Albuquerque N.M.

    The sport of ballooning has provided Joel with the opportunity to meet countless wonderful people and enjoy many unforgettable experiences. 

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  • A-Nuther-Star A-Nuther-Star

    Charles Blair 

    Charles has had this marvelous sport of ballooning in his close-knit family for over 35 years! Almost every weekend is a family get-together. So for him, ballooning is not just about going up and down, but rather a fancy way of creating a recurring family reunion. For this, he will be forever grateful!

  • Honor balloon
  • Honor Honor

    Jay McCormack

    Jay McCormack has been flying hot air balloons for over nine years during which he flew in the Philippines, New Zealand, Japan, India, Thailand, Mexico and many US states. Jay is also a Fixed-wing Flight Instructor with an instrument and commercial certificate including single-engine land and sea, as well as possessing tailwheel, complex, and high performance endorsements. He is also working on his commercial helicopter add on. When he’s not pursuing his passion in the air, Jay can be found mountain biking, snowboarding and exploring in the wilderness.

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  • Light N Up Light N Up

    Mike Ranieri

    Mike is a commercial hot-air balloon pilot and also holds a FAA Repairman’s Certificate working under Hudson Valley Balloon Port, which is owned and operated by his good friend, Russ Barber. Mike has been flying since 1999 and operates Catskill Mountain Balloon, Inc. with flights out of Columbia County Airport in Hudson, as well as Oneonta, Cooperstown and many festivals throughout the year. He has flown throughout New York, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Canada, and Japan. Mike takes every opportunity that Mother Nature allows to fly with the rising and setting of the sun.

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  • Lady Stockbridge Lady Stockbridge

    Kim Field 

    Kim first tried her hand as a Balloon Chase Crew member and becoming the pilot of her own balloon quickly became her next goal. Passing the final check-ride and holding her Commercial Pilot's License was worth the hard work involved. Sharing the joys of Ballooning continues to be a great reward for Kim. She wishes to send a special thank you to her Ballooning family, "You are the Chosen Few."

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  • Capitaine Des Vents Capitaine Des Vents

    Ian Shelton

    Ian Shelton, pilot & owner of Capitaine Des Vents (Captain of the Winds), is from Saint-Jean-sur Richelieu Canada.  Ian has been a pilot since 2015 and this is his 2nd year in the beautiful Hudson Valley.  Ian started off his ballooning career crewing before he got his first balloon ride, he then got hooked. He subsequently bought his own balloon and then became a pilot.  Ian enjoys attending festivals and rallies in the U.S and Canada.

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  • Piko Piko

    Sylvain Tremblay & Johann Frève

    Sylvain Tremblay has been a pilot since 2004. He has nearly 460 hours of free flight as pilot in command and more than a thousand in tethered flying at many festivals. Since 2012 he has been one of the Balloonmeister for the Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu hot air balloon festival. His great experience in meteorology makes him an excellent reference for ballooning. He truly enjoys teaching and sharing his knowledge. He is the designated pilot for PIKO, the Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu festival official balloon for many years. PIKO is known all around the world and is a big favorite in all the festivals. He is very happy to attend the Hudson Valley Hot Air Balloon festival this year!

    As a second pilot on Piko, Johann's first flight was actually when he was still in Moms belly . At that time his mother was one of the first female pilots in Quebec and she taught his father to be a pilot as well.  After many flights as a passenger and participant at festivals as a crew member, Johann began as a student pilot at the age of 16.  He became a pilot in 2007 and his first festival as a pilot was at the largest event in the world, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.  At this point, as a pilot, he attends more than 30 festivals as a pilot in America and Europe.  In 2019 Johann also became a hot air balloon flight instructor.  For him, fling is a gift and he enjoys introducing people to the wonderful experience.

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  • Limelite Limelite

    Roger & Michele Hooper 

    Roger & Michele own and operate Hudson Valley Balloon Adventures in East Fishkill. Roger's first ballooning experience was taking a balloon ride at the Adirondack Balloon Festival in 1983 and he then received his commercial pilot rating in 1994. Michele got the ballooning bug very young, taking her first balloon ride when she was 10 years old, is now Crew Chief. Roger and Michele enjoy flying the majestic Hudson Valley in their balloon "Limelite" with their daughter, Erin. When they are not ballooning or fishing, Roger is a Regional Sales Manager for Puratos Corporation, a Belgian manufacturer of fine chocolates and bakery ingredients in New Jersey.

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  • Paradise Island Paradise Island

    Dwight E. Cramer 

    Dwight is a resident of Munnsville, N.Y., and the pilot of “Paradise Island” balloon. Cramer's fascination with flying began in childhood; he went on his first balloon ride in 1992 and earned his commercial certificate in 1999. Cramer is well known for providing balloon rides over his hometown area and enjoys participating in balloon festivals throughout the northeast.

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  • Rainbow with a View Rainbow with a View

    Rich Hamilton 

    Rich is a Poughkeepsie resident and pilots “Rainbow with a View.” Along with his wife, Lori, and daughters, Sarah and Brittany, Rich has been involved in ballooning ever since he purchased a balloon ride for his wife's birthday many years ago. Since then, the family has attended festivals around the country and crewed for anyone who needed help. He holds a commercial pilot’s license and operates Adventure with Altitude Ballooning, LLC, in the Poughkeepsie area.

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  • Sir Prize Sir Prize

    Ken Leota 

    Ken flies the world's largest Tuxedo at hot-air balloon festivals throughout the northeast, Canada, and central New Jersey. He is a member of the Balloon Federation of America, the Great Eastern Balloon Association, and has been the recipient of GEBA's Ted Torok Award for Sportsmanship in Ballooning, as well as being Number One in competition in 2006. Not 'SirPrizingly,' Ken's crew includes his wife, Janet, their kids, Adam and Katie, and their Crew-Chief-Chef, Vince Downey. Many other family and friends (including John, Rosey, Courtney, Patty, David, Linda, Scott, Cynthia, Karen, Mark, many others) are also part of the "Sir Prize!" Team (and of course, Ann, Carl, & Vickie are always with us, too!) helping to share the uplifting experience of ballooning with all.

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  • Fleck’s Folly Fleck’s Folly

    Robert Dicks 

    Bob has been flying balloons since 1981. He is also a fixed wing pilot and he has a gas balloon rating. He has flown in many countries including Canada, France, Germany, Newfoundland, Mexico, and in many states. He has over 1700 hours in a balloon. He and his wife are looking forward to flying in the Hudson Valley Hot-Air Balloon Festival.

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  • My Witch's Broom II My Witch's Broom II

    Kym Butler & Scott Richards

    "My Witch's Broom 2" owned by Kym Butler, is coming back to the Hudson Valley Festival! Kym's love of ballooning started the year she saw a balloon being inflated at Lutheran Care. She pulled in to check it out and found Nikkie Negersmith setting up her balloon for the residents. Nikkie put her to work as crew and she must have done well enough because she let me help the rest of the weekend! Kym became good friend with a group of NH pilots and they helped her to get the training she needed and to find her first balloon. Kym loves sharing the adventure with her family and friends who know that magic can happen at sunrise.

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  • Lumy Lumy

    Jesse Duval Harbour 

    Jesse Duval Harbour has been flying balloons since 2014 and currently has 350 hours in the sky.  He is very passionate about ballooning and loves to share the magic with other people.  He truly enjoys discovering new places to fly.  He will be flying Lumy, named after his children, LUdovic and RoMY.  His children also selected the colors of the beautiful colors of the balloon.  Jesse is very excited to participate for the first time at the Hudson Valley Balloon Festival.

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  • Smile High Smile High


    Scott Griswold

    Scott Griswold is a 2nd generation balloon pilot in the Albany NY area, and he is the owner of Above All Balloon Rides. Scott’s father, Jim Griswold, started flying balloons in 1978 in Syracuse NY. Scott enjoys taking passengers for balloon rides throughout the summer and at festivals throughout Upstate NY. Scott mostly enjoys telling “balloon jokes” during the flight to make passengers feel more at ease.

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  • Wonderful Whirled Wonderful Whirled

    Jenn Goldbloom

    Jenn’s love of ballooning began during her first flight in Gallup, NM in 1982. Earning her commercial LTA rating in 1992, she’s been involved in many aspects of the sport over the years. A long-time member of the Great Eastern Balloon Association (GEBA), she has served on the board of directors and as editor of GEBA’s newsletter, SKYWRITER. She is also a member of the BFA, AAAA and AOPA. Jenn has met so many great people from all over the world through the shared experience of ballooning, having flown in many states across the U.S., as well as Canada, Mexico, France, and Spain. Currently, she flies her balloon, Wonderful Whirled, a 2011 Lindstrand 77-A.

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    Carroll Teitsworth

    Liberty Balloon Company was founded in 1977 by former US Navy aviator Carroll Teitsworth. From the beginning, it has been a family friendly business. In addition to providing an always exciting atmosphere for kids, many of those who have taken a ride, trained with us or served as crew have become like family as well.

    To us, flying is more than a business. Ballooning is a lifelong passion, and a constant reminder of God’s gentleness, majesty and blessing. We hope if you do business with us, or just stop to watch us floating by, you will find in some measure these same inspirations as well.

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  • Roamin' Candle Roamin' Candle

    Peter Turoff

    The Roamin’ Candle Balloon Team is comprised of family and friends of all ages and has truly made ballooning a team sport. Their favorite part of ballooning is introducing the sport to newcomers and sharing in the excitement of lighter-than-air flight. Peter and Jennifer Turoff have been flying Roamin’ Candle since 1995. They live in LaGrangeville. A former skydiver of 15 years with 501 jumps, Peter loves the exhilaration of being airborne and shares his passion for flying with his family.

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  • Nightstar Nightstar

    Blair Beard

    Blair started chasing balloons in southeast Pennsylvania in 1979; in 1981 he became a student pilot. By 1982 he received his private and then commercial certificates. Blair trained many pilots including his wife Joanne, daughter Kimberly and son Ryan. They built their own balloon in 1998 which is still flying as of 2023 but have started plans to build another balloon this winter.  Although ballooning is a passion for Blair, his main occupation was music education for 42 years. He still participates in 3 community bands, volunteers as a Boy Scout leader, is an active runner, and enjoys outdoors activities. 

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  • Movin' Magic Movin' Magic

    Mark MacSkimming

    Mark MacSkimming has been flying balloons since 1991. Mark has flown many contract corporate balloons and special shape balloons in balloon rallies throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Taiwan and Dubai UAE.  Having logged over 2,000 hours of LTA flight, Mark has successfully instructed 11 students to their private LTA license and 4 students to their commercial LTA license. Mark was safety officer for The Hershey Balloon Classic for nine years and presently serves as safety officer for the Carolinas Balloon Fest and the Ohio Challange. Mark served as the balloon meister for the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix Balloon Rally. He also holds level eight of the Balloon Federation of America’s Pilot Achievement Award Program. 

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  • Kirmizi Kirmizi

    Philippe Levesque

    His story begins when he was only 1 year old when his father brought him to see balloons. From that moment, he was amazed and impressed to see those gigantic, beautiful, colorful balloons. A few years after that, without missing any edition of the local balloon festival, he and his brothers continued to chase balloons with their father. At the age of 16, he started to crew at the Gatineau, Canada balloon Festival. A few years later, he joined a pilot and his team as a regular member, connecting him directly into the world of ballooning. It became, at this point, an addiction with the need to become a pilot a must! In 2020, in the middle of the COVID pandemic, he became the first Canadian pilot to get his license. A year later, he participated in his first balloon event as a pilot. Now, with more than 100 hours, it is only the beginning. He is now planning to be at the biggest hot air balloon event in the world! “Watch out world, here I come!”

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  • Sunrise Sunrise

    Todd Monahan

    Todd’s infectious enthusiasm for the sport of ballooning took shape as a youngster, chasing down balloons on his bike during the early years of the Adirondack Balloon Festival. A few years after graduating from SUNY Oswego, he decided to pursue his ballooning dreams and began SunKiss Ballooning. His principal training took place in Albuquerque, NM, site of the world’s largest balloon festival. His team understands the importance of ongoing training and professional development. He’s also in constant contact with pilots around the world about the latest in balloon technology, safety concerns, and more. He’s worked with professional pilots in teaching safety seminars approved by the FAA. He’s eager to share his love of ballooning by providing a safe, exciting, captivating, and memorable ballooning experience for you.

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  • Dude Dude

    Justin Cortright

    Justin is a pilot from Binghamton, NY. He has grown up around balloons from a young age and is a 2nd generation balloonist. He flies the “Dude” balloon, which is part of Brothers Over Broome Balloon team. Justin and his family have attended balloon festivals up and down the east coast for as long as he can remember. His first balloon flight was when he was 4.5 years old and has never looked back. In 2014, an opportunity presented itself to purchase a balloon from another fellow ballooning family; the Griswold’s. The sport of ballooning has played a huge part of his upbringing and family tradition. His fondest memory is attending Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in 1996 for the 25th anniversary. The sport of balloon is such a tight knit group and has brought everlasting friendships along the way. He hopes to one day pass the torch (“burner”) onto his son to carry on the tradition.




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