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.
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!
Scott, 38, is a second generation balloon pilot in the Albany area, and owner of Above All Balloon Rides. Scott’s father, Jim, started flying balloons in 1978 in Syracuse. Scott enjoys taking passengers for balloon rides throughout the summer and at festivals throughout upstate New York. Scott mostly enjoys telling balloon jokes during the flight to make passengers feel more at ease.
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.
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."
Roger & Michele 'Shelly' 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. Shelly 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.
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.
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.
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.
Lee's father, Carroll, started his aviation career as a Naval Aviator, flying P-3s during Vietnam. Leaving the Navy, he operated a small airport, giving airplane flight instruction, with ballooning as a sideline. Since 1978, he has been a full-time balloonist. He has taught Balloon Pilot Ground Schools and given balloon assembly programs at public schools in nearly every state in the USA. A couple of years ago, he passed 4,000 hours of balloon flight time. His primary activity in ballooning, now, is conducting the balloon promotional programs for RE/MAX of New York. Carroll says the most rewarding part of his balloon experience is sharing ballooning with his children, Lance, Lisa, Liana and Lee, and, since Lance’s son, Jacob, is taking flying lessons, they are a three-generation balloon family.
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.
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!
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.
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.