There was no fizzling sound, but you definitely could sense the air being let out of the first day of the annual Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic.
Twenty-seven hot air balloons slated to color the Boise skies Wednesday were grounded at 7 a.m. after technology issues forced event director Scott Spencer to cancel the launch from Ann Morrison Park.
Standing under an awning on dew-covered grass, Spencer told pilots seated in folding chairs that although weather appeared calm, the automated devices used for up-to-the-minute information had not updated in two hours. With the most recent details showing gusts of 13 to 18 miles per hour in Ontario, Ore., Spencer could not in good conscience send up the pilots and their passengers — members of the media and special guests.
“In 21 years, we lost four days to rain and wind,” he explained moments later. “But this is crazy this morning. It breaks my heart. Everybody’s been planning for six months, and I can’t get the information to put people into the air. ... I can't send these guys into the literal unknown.”
Spencer said he was confident close to 30 hot air balloons would launch Thursday — the second "Media Day." Even more balloons are slated to take to the sky Friday through Sunday, when the Classic kicks into full gear.
After scrolling again for a weather update on an iPad, Spencer admitted that he probably would have sent up the balloons years ago — back when you didn't use an app to check out flying conditions.
“Oh, hell yeah,” he said. “We wouldn’t have thought twice about it. But we’d be out in the desert dragging balloons.”
Back then, Spencer pointed out, they didn’t have balloons that cost a quarter million dollars laid out in the grass of Ann Morrison Park, either.
Although disappointed, pilots inflated balloons and lifted off a short distance from the ground for onlookers for about an hour and 20 minutes.
It wound up being a lot of fun, Spencer said afterward.
"Every little kid on that field got to go for a little tether ride," he said. "The kids had a blast. Who would've thought that something cruddy would've turned into something positive?"
By noon, Spencer had gotten information from the National Weather Service that reinforced his decision not to launch, he said.
Enthusiastically, he was turning his sights to Thursday.
"I think we're over our weather problems now," he said.
Photo gallery from Wednesday here.