Hudson Hot Air Affair :: Hudson, WI
Hudson Hot Air Affair  ::  Hudson, Wisconsin   Hudson Hot Air Affair  ::  Hudson, Wisconsin

Hudson Hot Air Affair

Hudson Hot Air Affair :: Balloons 2017

Celebrate Winter at the Hudson Hot Air Affair... It’s all about the weather!


Hot Air Affair Balloon Launches

All launches are from E.P. Rock Elementary School at 13th & Summer Streets, Hudson WI



Morning Balloon Launch: Saturday, February 4th at 7:30 a.m.


Afternoon Balloon Launch: Saturday, February 4th at 3:00 p.m.

Moon Glow or Field of Fire: Saturday, February 4th at 6:30 p.m.

Morning Balloon Launch: Sunday, February 6th at 7:30 a.m.

The latest announcement on weather and flight information will be posted on the HAA home page, facebook and/or twitter, before scheduled balloon launches on Saturday and Sunday.


2017 Balloons, Pilots and Balloon Sponsors
Cloud Nine

Balloon Name: Cloud Nine
Pilot: Mark Nabor, Big Bend, WI
Sponsor: Anderson Heating

Welcome back sponsor Anderson Heating and balloonist Mark Nabor for their fifth year together.  Mark works in information technology and has been a pilot for 8 years.  He says he looks forward to participating with the sponsors each year with his 1997 Firefly balloon.  Thanks to Anderson Heating and volunteers Richard and Sharon Young—who help promote Hot Air Affair year round.  They recently dressed as the Snow Queen and Royal Guard for HHAA at the Ice Castles in Stillwater.


Balloon Name: Patriot
Pilot: Wynn Gustafson, Arden Hills, MN
Sponsor: BMO Harris Bank

Gus is the HHAA senior pilot having participated in 26 of our 27 winter events.  He’s been flying for 36 years logging nearly 1,000 hours in the sky.  Gus is in the process of getting a new balloon so his HHAA appearance is in a loaner Lindstrand balloon while his is being made.  BMO Bank is also a loyal HHAA enthusiast as they’ve been a balloon sponsor for the eight years they’ve been open in Hudson. 


Balloon Name: Scotch
Pilot: Larry Nickolay, Newport, MN
Sponsor: Catalyst Sports Medicine

Here’s one of HHAA’s favorite combos.  Catalyst Sports Medicine owner John Knutson, a founding committee member of HHAA, and pilot Larry Nickoly have been together nearly every year since HHAA started in 1990.  Larry’s got the experience with 40 years in ballooning and 1,400 hours as pilot.  Congrats to John for being the Grand Marshal of the Torchlight Parade this year—we love your smoosh boarding! 


Balloon Name: Liberty Belle
Pilot: Bill Marhoun, Belview, MN
Sponsor: Comfort Suites of Hudson

Welcome back Comfort Suites of Hudson—you’ve been a balloon sponsor of the Hot Air Affair since opening in Hudson.  The hotel is paired with Belview, MN pilot Bill Marhoun.  Bill’s been ballooning for 17 years with 500+ hours as pilot in command.  Bill plans to fly the media flight Friday morning and light up downtown Hudson in the Torchlight Parade Friday evening. 


Balloon Name: New Balloon
Pilot: James Bushelle, Janesville, WI
Sponsor: Deanna & Mike Grigus, Hudson, WI

This is the third year Deanna and her husband, Mike, are balloon sponsors and the whole family has promoted HHAA in the St. Paul Winter Carnival Parades and community events.  Deanna is a committee member and photographer—you’ll see her creative pictures in HHAA marketing materials.  James is a 15 year pilot with 3,800 hours in the sky.


Balloon Name: Valley Girl
Pilot: Jim Wohlwend, Lakeland, MN
Sponsor: Dick’s Bar & Grill

Jim was on the pilot roster when the HHAA started 28 years ago and has flown more than 1800 hours since.  He’s flying for long-time HHAA supporter Dick’s Bar & Grill.  Jim can be found flying the fleet of balloons at Aamodt’s Hot Air Balloon Rides and helping support the Hot Air Affair year round.  Thanks to everyone at Dick’s for the countdown event for kids—great pictures and great breakfasts too!   

Airganic Garden

Balloon Name: Airganic Garden - Family Fresh Market
Pilot: Bennett Schwontkowski, Cary, IL
Sponsor: Family Fresh Markets Hudson, New Richmond, and River Falls

Here’s a crowd favorite—the special shape balloon Airganic Garden sponsored by Family Fresh Markets.  The balloon features state of the art inkjet printing for the attention getting design that includes two giant monarch butterflies, two red tomatoes, a 25 foot tall apple basket, strawberries, peaches, cinnamon sticks, a classic barn, five cows and two horses on a vivid blue and green background.  Thanks for hosting a countdown event again this year.


Balloon Name: Tequila Sunrise
Pilot: Daron Powers, Pewaukee, WI
Sponsor: First National Community Bank

Welcome new balloon sponsor First National Community Bank!  You’re paired with HHAA first time pilot Daron Powers, a 25 year aeronaut who’s flown Tequila Sunrise for 17 years in Wisconsin.  He’s also flown in Albuquerque.  The balloon is known for its red and yellow zig zag pattern with red pennants.  Hope you both have a great flight in Hudson.


Balloon Name: Jill & Tedd’s Excellent Adventure
Pilot: Tedd Maxfield, Austin, MN
Sponsor: First State Bank and Trust

Welcome back this fourth year balloonist and sponsor combination.  First State Bank and Trust in downtown Hudson likes being a balloon sponsor and Ted likes flying in Hudson.  The balloon has flown in several states and has made many friends with people all over the country. Tedd’s a 10 year pilot with 153 hours as pilot in command. 

Not Yet Named

Balloon Name: Not Yet Named
Pilot: John Rucker, Genoa City, WI
Sponsor: Hudson Ford

This is John’s sixth year as a pilot at Hot Air Affair, having been a crew member in Hudson for four years.  He’s been flying for 6 years and has 241 hours in the air.  This is the 7th year sponsorship for the local automotive dealership under current ownership and a long time balloon sponsor prior to that.  Thanks to Hudson Ford for helping us out when we call!


Balloon Name: Madam Blueberry
Pilot: Keith Knefelkamp, Lakeland, MN
Sponsor: Hudson Hot Air Affair Inc.

Welcome back Keith as a HHAA pilot—pairing the Stillwater Balloons’ fleet with the HHAA committee.  Keith flies the St. Croix Valley as one of the pilots for Stillwater Balloons and he plans to greet visitors Friday night in the Torchlight Parade.  A big thanks to Steve Jacobs and the pilots from Stillwater Balloons for their year-round support of HHAA and our activities.


Balloon Name: NavaJo Bob
Pilot: Bob O’Brien, Waupaca, WI
Sponsor: Hudson House Grand Hotel

Bob’s a 26 year pilot who’s flown throughout the country, including Albuquerque.  His NavaJo Bob balloon has Southwestern colors and patterns, paying homage to the region plus Bob’s wife’s name is Jo.  You can guess the Bob part of the name.  He will be carrying charter HHAA balloon sponsor Hudson House Grand Hotel—28 years of continuous support.


Balloon Name: Euphoria
Pilot: Rich Jaworski, Blair NE
Sponsor: Hudson Vintage Neighborhood Alliance

Rich and the Hudson Vintage Neighborhood Alliance group are quite the team!  Look for them at the Torchlight Parade Friday night—they’re always a highlight.  Rich has been flying for 45 years with 2,800 hours logged as pilot in command.  He holds many aviation records and we’re thrilled that he continues to visit Hudson each year.  Number of years?  “15 or so—who’s counting” is his answer!


Balloon Name: Sedona Sunset
Pilot: Glenn O’Connell, Gilberts, Il
Sponsor: Lift Me Up Balloon-John & Evy Nerbonne

Glenn and his sidekick Brian Schwontkowski, along with Hudsonites Nancy and Gary Fouks, have been the foundation of the Lift Me Up Balloon for many years.  They provide a balloon ride each year to someone touched by cancer.  The HHAA experience lets a cancer patient step away from his or her daily challenges to enjoy a lift up flying in Sedona Sunset.  Glenn’s also a favorite volunteer at the local schools for education or special programs.


Balloon Name: Northern Lights
Pilot: Missy Cool-Junker, Stillwater, MN
Sponsor: Living with Dementia Balloon / FirstCall Medical Monitoring & Care Wisconsin

Family members Josh Harp-Cool and Missy Cool-Junker have teamed up to fly in the St. Croix Valley.  Missy flew in the very first Hot Air Affair and Josh works year round on the committee.  This is the second year for the Living with Dementia Balloon—thanks to the St. Croix County and Wisconsin sponsors for providing a positive experience for a person (and family) living with Dementia.


Balloon Name: Full Throttle
Pilot: Pete Riehle, Forest Lake, MN
Sponsor: Loparex, LLC

Pete’s a former Hot Air Affair Balloonmeister and he’s paired with his employer as a sponsor.  He’s a technical director of the Loparex plant in Hammond.  Pete’s been flying for 24 years and has logged 350 hours as pilot in command.  In addition to his own balloon, Pete helps Aamodt’s Balloons and Stillwater Balloons as a pilot for their companies in the St. Croix Valley…he even has a balloon named for him!

Nifty Gadget

Balloon Name: Nifty Gadget
Pilot: Chris Keefe, Cross Plains, WI
Sponsor: Mallory's Restaurant & Rooftop Bar

Welcome new balloon sponsor Mallory’s!   You’ll be flying with an old friend of HHAA—we’ve traveled the ballooning circuit with Chris for more than 20 years watching him crew for others and now piloting his own balloon.  Mallory’s is one of Hudson’s new restaurants—the perfect place to start your HHAA weekend before the Torchlight Parade Friday night.  Check out their menu and enjoy live music too.


Balloon Name: Integrity
Pilot: Frank Urbanski, Dakota Dunes, SD
Sponsor: MidwestOne Bank

It’s all new this year—welcome aviation maintenance expert Frank as a new pilot and MidwestOne Bank as a new sponsor.  Frank’s South Dakota location means connection with special shaped balloons that have been in Hudson over the years—remember Uncle Sam and Chick-a-Boom?  Thanks to MidwestOne Bank for joining the HHAA sponsor family and Frank for flying in Hudson.


Balloon Name: Phoenix
Pilot: Michael Lesmeister, Rochester, MN
Sponsor: Minuteman Press

Welcome back Minuteman Press as a balloon sponsor—and Mike with his Phoenix balloon.  Mike’s a 20 year pilot (with more than 15 years at HHAA—officially and unofficially, he says) and shares the Greek mythology story that the Phoenix is a bird associated with the sun and is regenerated—rising from ashes of its predecessor.  Thanks everyone at Minuteman for all your HHAA help each year.  


Balloon Name: Moonshadow
Pilot: Anne Christensen, Chisago City, MN
Sponsor: Oakwood Dental

Welcome new pilot Anne—a third generation and six year pilot who’s flown the Black Hills of South Dakota, the Stratobowl and Albuquerque. Her parents met hot air ballooning in the 1980’s and her first flight was at age four.  Oakwood Dental’s a long-time local business that steps up each year to help bring the winter festival to life.  Check out the Oakwood Dental coupon in the HHAA brochure.


Balloon Name: Fire and Frost
Pilot: Ed Chapman, Jordan, MN
Sponsor: Pier 500

Welcome back Ed and sponsor Pier 500.  Ed has more than 25,000 hours in a variety of aircraft, including more than 2,700 in hot air balloons during his 40 years of flying.  Ed just returned from flying in Austria (he’s also flown over Afton Alps) and helped HHAA last summer at GermanFest in St. Paul—talking about European flying.  Welcome back Pier 500—the perfect spot to watch the Torchlight Parade Friday night.


Balloon Name: Madam Blueberry
Pilot: Keith Knefelkamp, Lakeland, MN
Sponsor: PressEnter!

Keith flies the St. Croix Valley as one of the pilots for Stillwater Balloons and will carry long time HHAA supporter PressEnter!  Thanks to PressEnter! for hosting our web site and coordinating the photo contest again this year—we appreciate your long standing partnership with HHAA.  Thanks Keith for your 3 years of winter festival flying.

Nifty Gadget

Balloon Name: RE/MAX Maximum Exposure
Pilot: Ken Walter, Waukesha, WI
Sponsor: RE/MAX INTEGRA, Midwest

Ken’s back this year with his RE/MAX balloon.  We appreciate Ken’s help with media flights, school programs, the Torchlight Parade and our balloon event committee each year.  Ken is a corporate RE/MAX pilot covering the entire Central, Southern and Eastern parts of Wisconsin.  He’s a traveler too—we hooked up with Ken in Lake Havasu City, Arizona a few weeks ago—great event in warmer weather! 


Balloon Name: RE/MAX
Pilot: Mike Sommer, Deer River, MN
Sponsor: RE/MAX Results

Welcome back to Mike who will be flying the popular red, white and blue balloon in Hudson this year.  He’s been a balloonist for 35 years, logging 600 hours as pilot in command.  Look for Mike and his RE/MAX balloon in the media flight and Torchlight Parade.  RE/MAX has been listed in every HHAA brochure since 1991.  Thanks for the incredible support!

Crayola Lite

Balloon Name: Air Forge
Pilot: Mike Reinert, Alta, IA
Sponsor: Richard Pierce Memorial Flight

A 26-year pilot with more than 650 hours in the sky, Mike holds a commercial rating for his Firefly balloon.  He’s back with a special program again this year.  Richard Pierce was a passenger in HHAA 2010 and lost his battle with cancer shortly after the event.  His widow Kathy (and HHAA committee member) is again partnering with the Hudson Relay For Life to offer a balloon flight experience to another cancer patient or survivor.  Have fun Cindy!


Balloon Name: Hocus Pocus
Pilot: Dale Dommer, Ottumwa, IA
Sponsor: St. Croix Lanes

Dale says 2017 marks 25 years of flying balloons and he has no plans to stop anytime soon!  Dale and his new wife Natalie bought a restaurant in downtown Ottumwa last summer—a big hit and it’s kept them very busy.  You’ll find Molly Johnson and her family crewing for Dale.  She’s an active HHAA volunteer helping to coordinate pilot activities—thanks for all the hard work!


Balloon Name: Pete’s Baby
Pilot: Steve Jacobs, Lakeland, MN
Sponsor: Stillwater Balloons

Thanks Steve for being a friend of HHAA year round.  He’s a committee member who donates his time and use of his equipment to HHAA.  You’ll see a Stillwater Balloons basket at the Hudson Hilltop Pumpkin Party, Yellowstone Trail Day and RiverFest—plus he’s there when we need a balloon prop for a photo op.  His Stillwater Balloons company is an icon in the St. Croix River Valley—offering passengers a special memory for a special occasion.


Balloon Name: Sabrina
Pilot: Mike Klawitter, Eland, WI
Sponsor: The UPS Store

A private pilot and owner of a hardwood flooring company, Mike has been flying balloons for 27 years.  He’s been a HHAA pilot for more than two decades and flies a 77,000 cubic foot Head balloon.  The crew from The UPS Store helps out with printing many of the HHAA materials—check out this year’s school program booklet put together by Mary Martin and Jacki Bradham!


Balloon Name: Richard the Rubber Duck
Pilot: Nathan Dieringer, Menasha, WI
Sponsor: Viking Electronics

Hot Air Affair visitors will get a real treat when Richard the Rubber Duck returns to Hudson.  There was balloon quacking years ago at HHAA—so pleased you’re back!  Nathan is a 36 year pilot and this marks his first winter festival/rally in Hudson.  The folks at Viking Electronics are long time HHAA supporters who help bring special fun to the Torchlight Parade on Friday night.


Balloon Name: Phoenix
Pilot: Michael Lesmeister, Rochester, MN
Sponsor: Viking Electronics

Viking Electronics has been synonymous with Hot Air Affair fun for decades.  They help underwrite many HHAA programs and thus earn a second balloon in the annual winter festival and balloon rally.  Thanks Mike and Viking Electronics for brightening the landscape around Hudson—hopefully the Phoenix balloon will bring sunshine and soft winds!   


Balloon Name:Twisted Truth
Pilot: Scott Armstrong, Urbandale, IA
Sponsor: ViXX Converting/Anchor Paper Co.

Scott’s a flying pharmacist with 14 years of ballooning on his RX pad.  He’s flown 315 hours as pilot in command of his 56,000 cubic foot Lindstrand balloon.   ViXX Converting and their owner Anchor Paper Co. are pleased to partner with HHAA again this year by providing the paper stock for this year’s brochure.  Thanks Todd and the crew at ViXX.


Balloon Name: Too Fun
Pilot: John Lewis, Belview, MN
Sponsor: WESTconsin Credit Union

It’s a winning combination with long time Hot Air Affair pilot John Lewis and his crew chief wife Barb and 8th year HHAA corporate sponsor WESTconsin Credit Union.  John’s been flying for 16 years, logging 200 hours in the air.  The WESTconsin Credit Union crew is always there to promote HHAA at special events—welcome back as our corporate sponsor!  They have tickets for the Taste of Hot Air Affair—pick them up at the Hudson office.


Balloon Name: Cloud Dancer
Pilot: Bill Buchar, Shorewood, IL
Sponsor: Woodland Hills

Welcome new sponsor Woodland Hill—a quality residential community offering senior apartments, assisted living, memory care and additional services.  You’ll have HHAA fun with second year event pilot Bill Buchar.  He’s an airline pilot in his other aviation life and liked Hudson so much last year he’s back on the pilot roster for 2017.  Thanks Woodland Hill for supporting our Hudson community special event!


Balloon Name: April Love
Pilot: Steve Johnson, Duluth, MN
Sponsor: Zappa Bros.

Making his 20th visit to Hudson, Steve’s again paired with charter balloon sponsor Zappa Bros.  Steve’s a professional pianist & entertainer who also enjoys aerobatics.  He’s flown more than 2 dozen types of aircraft including sea plane, amphibian & biplane.  Steve will share his knowledge of flying and weather at a special program at the Marketplace at E.P. Rock School at noon on Saturday. 


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