• Meet the 2022 Balloon Festival Pilots


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  • Hover Girl Hover Girl

    Brian Smith

    Brian Smith is the lead pilot for Hover Girl balloon team which is based in Poughkeepsie, NY. Brian has been piloting his own balloon since 2000 and involved in ballooning since the 1970s as crew for his dad Tom Smith. Tom has been a pilot since the early 1970’s and he is and one of the original founders of the Dutchess County Balloon Festival.Brian has flown in three different countries and many different states. Hover Girl can be seen flying locally in Dutchess County region all year. Stop by and say hi!

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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!

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  • Smile High Smile High

    Scott Griswold

    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.

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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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  • 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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  • Piko Piko

    Sylvain Tremblay

    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!

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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 2 My Witch's Broom 2

    Kym Butler

    "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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  • Autumn Above Autumn Above

    Caroline Cating

    Caroline Cating started flying planes as a teenager, inspired by her Grandmother's acumen as an aerobatic pilot. She began her commercial piloting career flying skydivers in central Vermont, and meandered her way to a skydiving center in southwest Mexico. While working there, she was given the opportunity to learn to fly hot air balloons, and since then continued flying her own Lindstrand 77 in her home state of Vermont. Now she provides fixed-wing flight instruction at an experimental aviation company, and this year started flying for Above All Balloon Rides, based in Albany, New York.

  • International de Montgolfières Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu
  • International de Montgolfières Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu International de Montgolfières Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu

    Ian Shelton
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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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  • Sunrise Sunrise

    Glo Kehoe

    Shortly after moving from Chicago to the ballooning capital of the world in Albuquerque, Glo Kehoe became captivated with hot-air balloons and immediately became involved in the many facets of ballooning. Flying in hot-air balloons in all sizes and shapes all over the world, she has been an owner/operator, media spokesperson, and on air personality for television shows.
    Worlds apart from Chicago, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is the world’s largest balloon event and Glo immediately immersed herself, first as a volunteer, and then as a valuable member. She has been an official Fiesta Scorer, served on both the education and social events committees for the Albuquerque Balloon Club, and chaired the Balloon Fiesta chase crew committee.

    Not one to sit on the sidelines and watch, Glo became a co-owner/operator of a local repair station and built a competition balloon for a nationally top-ranked competitor. Eventually becoming an internationally acclaimed pilot, Glo has accumulated over 3000 hours of flight time, and is a certified pilot instructor, having given pilot training and flight instruction to students all over world and has flown balloons up to 310,000 cubic feet in in both domestic and international ride operations.

    Not content with just flying standard shape balloons, Glo is the preeminent balloon shapes pilot in the world. Her impressive resume of special shape balloons include a beer bottle, a champagne bottle, and two soft drink cans; a truck, a watch, and a film can; boy and girl piggy banks, along with a hamburger, a strawberry, a cake, stage coach and a popcorn bag; and host of animals that include a whale, panda, penguin, sloth, frog, and the ever popular Energizer Bunny.

    Glo’s ballooning career has taken her to over 40 states, including Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Flights in Europe have taken her over the vineyards of the Burgundy Region and Chateaux’s of France, ancient castles in Italy, and picturesque chalets in Austria. Recently she was chosen to fly the birthday cake balloon for celebrations at festivals in Australia and New Zealand. She was also featured flying the 166 foot tall Energizer Bunny for the Discovery Science Channel on a segment for their show Really Big Things.

    During her balloon adventures, she was presented the keys to the city of Franklin, Kentucky, and has won various balloon competitions and awards throughout her career. Her most treasured awards are the ‘Spirit of Ballooning and Appreciation’ awards that were bestowed upon her by her fellow pilots.

    Extensively trained in media and public relations, corporate client balloons that Glo has flown include the Energizer Bunny, Norwest - piggy banks, SeaWorld – Shamu, United Van Lines – The Truck, TBS – Birthday Cake, Lipton Tea – Strawberry, Labatt’s Beer Bottle, Coca Cola – bottle, Swatch Watch Shape, Pepsi can, Oldsmobile, Anheuser Busch.

    Glo was the team leader for the Balloonicle Inflation team for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 2005-2017 and then became the Lead balloon tech for the Universal Studios Macy’s Holiday parade in Orlando which she currently still does. 

    Glo is flying for Sunkiss Ballooning this weekend.

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  • Spectra Spectra

    Joe Pluck

    The first Hot Air Balloon flight in the United States was from Philadelphia, PA to Deptford, NJ in 1793. It was attended by five men who became US Presidents. When I was nine years old I attended a festival commemorating that flight. It was my first chase and I was hooked. I didn’t become greatly involved until many years later, when I started crewing for every pilot I could. I became a crew chief and began to travel to crew for several pilots. Ten years into crewing I got my student pilot certificate and after five years I got my license. It was a dream come true and I still love every flight. My favorite part of ballooning is not just flying but sharing all I’ve learned with others.

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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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  • Questions? Call the Hudson Valley Hot-Air Balloon Festival Hot-Line

    (845) 454-1701

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    ¿Preguntas en español? El correo electrónico está en info@dcrcoc.org