I live for experiences that engage the senses — from the adrenaline rush of riding a roller coaster to the deep peace of watching the sun rise.

That's why I've longed for years to ride in a hot air balloon.

I couldn't wait to experience my first flight when I learned Acadiana's first hot air balloon festival was happening Labor Day weekend.

I imagined the thrill of watching the world shrink from view and the tranquility of floating into the clouds. 

It wasn't until I reached Pelican Park in Carencro, where Glow at the Cro is happening this weekend, that I learned all the things I hadn't imagined about balloon travel.

Turns out, I'm a nervous flyer.


Can't see video below? Click here.


I jerked in surprise every time our pilot Michael Gullo fired up the propane burner to lift us higher. I gasped any time the basket rocked or wicker crunched as a passenger shifted his weight. 

This was not the peaceful flight of my imagination.

I reminded myself to take deep breaths in an attempt to release the building tension in my muscles. I told myself to take it all in. It's not every day you get to float at 1,300 feet above Acadiana.

The sun was breaking through the clouds along the horizon. We marveled at the pastures and woods and developments below us, wondering if we could identify anything from so high up. At one point, we could even hear the cows mooing below us. 

We listened to Gullo and his wife, Angie, on the two-way radio as they spoke in code. We soon learned Gullo's balloon was "Free Spirit," and "Free Spirit Chase" was his wife's vehicle that was following us to transport us back to Pelican Park.

Later, once we were back on solid ground, Angie would tell me that their next hot air balloon will be named Main Squeeze because she is "the other woman" in Gullo's relationship with ballooning. 

The electrician-turned-balloonist has been flying since 1994, when a hot air balloon landed in his backyard. Angie is like me. She prefers watching balloons to riding in them.

After about 45 minutes of flying, Gullo was planning our landing on a street in Oak Springs Subdivision on the edge of Carencro. Neighbors watched our descent from their front yards.

Gullo reminded us to bend our knees and cling tight to the ropes in the basket. We bounced once on the street before coming to rest.

I clamored out of the basket and let out a heavy sigh as children swarmed around the balloon.

Gullo and his team asked for their help in deflating the lingering air, and one by one, the children jumped on the crumpled balloon to fit it back into a bag.

Although I won't be traveling by balloon again anytime soon, I can't help but wonder how many people in that Carencro neighborhood are now dreaming of piloting a balloon. 

Whether you want to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground or you want to try out ballooning, check out Glow in the Cro, the three-day hot air balloon festival this weekend at Pelican Park in Carencro. The festival will feature about 20 hot air balloons, which will glow along the park's skyline at sunset. Tethered and full flight hot air balloon rides will be available to the public.

Email Megan Wyatt at mwyatt@theadvocate.com.