Watch for the updated 2020 balloon information in January.

Hudson Hot Air Affair :: 2019 Balloons

Hot Air Affair Balloon Launches

Balloon Launch

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


Morning Balloon Launch: Saturday, February 2nd at 7:35 a.m.
Afternoon Balloon Launch: Saturday, February 2nd at 3:00 p.m.
(This is an optional flight if morning flight launched or a mass ascension if morning flight was canceled.)
Moon Glow or Field of Fire: Saturday, February 2nd at 6:30 p.m.
Morning Balloon Launch: Sunday, February 3rd at 7:35 a.m.

The latest announcement on weather and flight information will be posted on the home page or Facebook before scheduled balloon launches on Saturday and Sunday.

Northern Lights

Balloon Name: Northern Lights
Pilot: Missy Cool-Junker and Mike Murray, Stillwater, MN
Sponsor: American Family Insurance/Tammy Belisle Agency

It’s all in the family!  American Family Insurance/Tammy Belisle Agency has a family connection to balloon pilot and committee member Mike Murray. And balloon pilot Missy Cool-Junker and balloon owner and committee member Josh Harp-Cool are family…. in fact, counting Missy’s dad and Josh’s dad and grandfather—there’s been a 3 generation Cool family at Hot Air Affair over the years.

Cloud Nine

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

Welcome back sponsor Anderson Heating and balloonist Mark Naber for their eighth year together. Mark works in information technology and has been a pilot for 10 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 HHAA year-round. Find them dressed as pirates as they celebrate the 2019 Pirates Fly’n the Croix-ribbean theme.

Cotton Candy

Balloon Name: Cotton Candy
Pilot: Corey Gaddis, Sioux Falls, SD
Sponsor: Belle Vinez Winery

Welcome back our sponsor Belle Vinez Winery and pilot Corey Gaddis combo. Corey’s been a balloon pilot since 1994 and returned last year after a nearly 10 year hiatus while raising family.  Belle Vinez is the Zimmerman family winery—with 3 generations sharing in the work and fun!  This is their second year as a balloon sponsor.  Glad you’re both back to help make HHAA a huge success!

Madam Blueberry

Balloon Name: Madam Blueberry
Pilot: Keith Knefelkamp, Lakeland, MN
Sponsor: Bill & Barbara Wetzel

Welcome new sponsors Bill and Barbara Wetzel, new Hudson residents who love the St. Croix River.  You have lots in common with your pilot Keith Knefelkamp—you ride the waves of the St. Croix in your boat.  Keith rides the winds over the St. Croix in his balloon basket.  Keith’s been ballooning for 7 years and flies commercially for Stillwater Balloons.  Hope you enjoy your first HHAA Bill and Barbara.

Blaser SwissLube

Balloon Name: Blaser 1
Pilot: Rick Piendel, Annville, PA
Sponsor: Blaser SwissLube

Welcome back pilot Rick Piendel and his crew chief wife Rita.  This is their second year at HHAA after being recommended by a former committee member—“Launchfield Larry” Swistoski thought they should check out Hudson last year.  Blaser SwissLube is a Switzerland based company in the metal working industry and Rick coordinates the company’s American balloon fleet.


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

Catalyst Sports Medicine owner John Knutson, a founding committee member of HHAA, and pilot Larry Nickolay can’t remember how many years they’ve been coming to HHAA together—Larry says 42, 35 or maybe 28 years. Larry’s crew probably can’t remember the number of decades either—the Reisingers and Michels.  John’s the one with the hot air—check him out as the longtime announcer of smoosh boarding.


Balloon Name: Aerogami
Pilot: Rose Eakins, Webster, WI
Sponsor: Comfort Suites of Hudson

HHAA is pleased to welcome back Rose Eakins, the pilot credited with bringing the first winter balloon rally to Hudson.  It was 30 years ago when she served as the first balloonmeister and invited her ballooning friends to visit Hudson and share some winter flying.  The rest is history!  She’s paired with Comfort Suites of Hudson—a HHAA supporter since they opened in Hudson.


Balloon Name: Moonshadow
Pilot: Anne Christensen, Spirit Lake, IA
Sponsor: Deanna & Mike Grigus

This is the fifth year Deanna and her husband Mike are balloon sponsors. Deanna is a committee member and photographer—sharing her spectacular ballooning shots in HHAA press releases.  Anne’s a third-generation pilot whose parents met ballooning in the 1980s. She’s been flying since 2010 and her favorite places to fly include the Black Hills of South Dakota and the St. Croix River Valley.

Valley Girl

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

Jim was on the pilot roster when the HHAA started 30 years ago and has flown more than 1900 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 crafts and great breakfasts too!

Fred G. Monster

Balloon Name: Fred G. Monster
Pilot: Bennett Schwontkowski, Gallatin, TN
Sponsor: Family Fresh Markets Hudson, New Richmond, and River Falls

Introducing Fred G. Monster. The “G” stands for “gold” as he has a heart of gold. Overall, when you love broccoli and cookies as much as he does, and don’t comb your hair, you may not be the most handsome, but he’s trying. All of those cookies and broccoli have made him 80 feet tall, 75 feet wide, and a whopping 450 pounds. But he’s trying like most to stick to a treasure of healthy options from his favorite store, Family Fresh Market.

Blue Loon

Balloon Name: Blue Loon
Pilot: David Koenig, Menasha, WI
Sponsor: First National Community Bank

Welcome back sponsor First National Community Bank and pilot David Koenig. In addition to being an aficionado of experimental and 1-man balloons, David is a scientist who once worked at NASA. He’s been ballooning for 38 years, logging over 1,200 hours as pilot in command and this is his 10th Hot Air Affair.  First National Community Bank has been both a balloon and event sponsor—thanks for your support!

Jill & Tedd’s Excellent Adventure

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

Welcome back this balloonist and sponsor combination. First State Bank and Trust in downtown Hudson likes being a balloon sponsor and Ted likes flying in Hudson. Ted describes his balloon as blue, red and orange zig zag with a goofy looking pilot and crew that drools at times.  The pilot suffers from severe chocolate and gluten deficiencies so will accept supplements of doughnuts, cake and M&Ms from everyone.

Not Yet Named

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

This is John’s 8th year as a pilot at Hot Air Affair, having been a crew member in Hudson for four years. He’s been flying for ten years and has over 400 hours in the air. This is the 9th 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: Wildfire
Pilot: Sonja Belgarde, Sun Prairie, WI
Sponsor: Hudson Hot Air Affair

Here’s fun 30th year trivia—who’s father flew in the 1990 first ever HHAA in the International Peace Garden balloon?  Who’s balloon flew at HHAA many times with former committee members John and Barb Lewis?  Sonja’s a first time pilot at HHAA who’s been flying 2 years and has been around balloons her entire life.  She says joining the sport was one of the best decisions she’s ever made!

Nifty Gadget

Balloon Name: Nifty Gadget
Pilot: Chris Keefe, Cross Plains, WI
Sponsor: Hudson Hot Air Affair

Chris is an old friend of HHAA—we’ve traveled the ballooning circuit with Chris for pushing 30 years—we all had fun in the old days at the balloon rally in Wisconsin Dells!  Chris flies a Lindstrand 90A and has more than 250 hours as pilot in command.  We’re pleased Chris will be flying for the Hot Air Affair at this milestone rally of 30 years.


Balloon Name: Phoenix
Pilot: Wynn Gustafson, Arden Hills, MN
Sponsor: Hudson Hot Air Affair

Here’s another historical combo—Gus and the HHAA.  Having participated in nearly all of the 30 years of our existence, Gus was once our balloonmeister and always a fixture at the Hudson winter festival.  This year he’s flying Phoenix—and bringing the Greek mythology story to life.  Come see the Phoenix— a bird associated with the sun and regeneration.

Kay's WindDancer

Balloon Name: Kay's WindDancer
Pilot: Ken Walter, Waukesha, WI
Sponsor: Hudson Hot Air Affair 

Welcome back Ken and the Walter family—considering we’ve been around 30 years, we’re about the same age as Ken and Kay’s 3 boys put together!  The kids were born into the HHAA family.  Thanks Ken for your help over the years with media flights, school programs, Torchlight Parade and our balloon event committee.  You’re the voice of HHAA to the pilots and public and we appreciate your expertise to make HHAA a success.

Peg Leg Pete the Pirate Parrot

Balloon Name: Peg Leg Pete the Pirate Parrot Balloon
Pilot: David & Kathy Reineke, Mahomet, IL
Sponsor: Hudson House Grand Hotel and Hot Air Affair

What a great match—a 30 year balloon sponsor and our featured pirate theme balloon.  Peg Leg Pete was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2012 and stands 85 feet tall and weighs 450 pounds.  He’s a friendly pirate parrot and looking forward to time spent with our charter balloon sponsor Hudson House Grand Hotel.  The hotel is our HHAA headquarters where you’ll find Booster Bingo on Saturday afternoon and evening.  All proceeds to youth sports programs in Hudson.


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

Rich and the Hudson Vintage Neighborhood Alliance group are back! Look for them at the Torchlight Parade Friday night—you never know how they’ll interpret our annual theme!  Rich has been flying for 47 years with over 2,890 hours logged as pilot in command. He holds many aviation records and we’re thrilled that he continues to visit Hudson each year. When asked his occupation, he said “Balloonist—what else?”

Sedona Sunset

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 gems of the Lift Me Up Balloon for many years. They provide a balloon ride each year to people touched by cancer. An hour in Sedona Sunset can be a bright spot in a dark time. Glenn’s also a star volunteer at the local schools for education or special programs.


Full Throttle

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

Pete and Jacob are a 2-generation team with a long history at HHAA.  Pete’s a former Hot Air Affair Balloonmeister who’s a technical director of the Loparex plant in Hammond. Pete’s been flying for about 30 years and has logged about 400 hours as pilot in command. Jacob’s following in his dad’s footsteps as a pilot and this is his first official participation in HHAA though he’s grown up attending the winter event in Hudson with his family.

Uncle Sam

Balloon Name: Uncle Sam
Pilot: Frank Urbanski, Dakota Dunes, SD
Sponsor: MidWestOne Bank

Welcome back an old friend—the Uncle Sam balloon piloted by Frank Urbanski. Uncle Sam was pictured in the 1992 HHAA brochure when it was part of the Soukup and Thomas Balloon Museum special shaped balloon fleet. The folks at MidwestOne Bank are HHAA supporters and their desire to bring a special shape to Hudson became a reality when they paired up with Frank.


Balloon Name: Flo
Pilot: Don Dumke, Florence, WI
Sponsor: Minuteman Press

Welcome back pilot Don—who’s been flying with his family for more than 5 years.  This is Don’s second year at HHAA and he says they had a great time last year!  They’re excited to return and share their love for ballooning.  Lesson learned—winter flying is a challenge during recovery.  Bring a sled!!  Thanks everyone at Minuteman for all your HHAA help each year.


Balloon Name: Bubbles
Pilot: John Bullock, Genoa City, WI
Sponsor: Pier 500

Welcome back John and sponsor Pier 500. John’s been a pilot since 2004 and says his family started ballooning because of the HHAA. They attended in 1998 as spectators and the rest is history. They bought their balloon from Bill and Bonnie Marhoun—who they met at HHAA—and Bill taught John how to fly.  Welcome back Pier 500—the perfect spot to watch the Torchlight Parade Friday night!

RE/MAX Maximum Exposure

Balloon Name: RE/MAX Maximum Exposure
Pilot: Rod VanWyngeeren, Waukesha, WI
Sponsor: RE/MAX INTEGRA, Midwest

Rod’s a Realtor plus a RE/MAX pilot covering portions of Wisconsin and Minnesota.  He’s been ballooning for 20+ years with more than 600 hours as pilot in command.  We’re pleased Rod is in Hudson this year to celebrate our 30th year—we’re among dozens of community festivals and special events on Rod’s calendar every year.  Let’s celebrate the long time partnership of HHAA and RE/MAX!

RE/MAX Results

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 36 years, logging 624 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 over the years!

Air Forge

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

A 30-year pilot with 700 hours in the sky, Mike holds a commercial rating for his Firefly balloon. He’s back with a special HHAA 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 offering a balloon flight experience to someone touched by cancer.

Ridin High

Balloon Name: Ridin High
Pilot: Terry Dorshorst, West Salem WI
Sponsor: Living with Dementia Balloon/FirstCall Medical Monitoring/St. Croix Electric Cooperative

This is the fourth year for the Living with Dementia Balloon—thanks to the St. Croix County and St. Croix Electric Cooperative sponsors for providing a positive experience for a person living with dementia. Welcome back Terry—this is the second year for the flight nurse/pilot to join us.  He says ballooning is a family affair and Hudson allows him to meet other balloon families.  Look for them in the parade!

Joint Custody

Balloon Name: Joint Custody
Pilot: Dale Dommer, Pearland, TX
Sponsor: St. Croix Lanes

Dale’s a 12 year HHAA veteran who’s been flying for 28 years. He will be flying Joint Custody—named because his family and friends own the balloon in Ottumwa, Iowa and Dale moved to Texas.  You’ll find Molly Johnson plus family and friends crewing for Dale. When not chasing Dale’s balloon, Molly’s an active HHAA volunteer helping to coordinate pilot activities—thanks for all the hard work throughout the year Molly!


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

A private pilot and carpenter, Mike has been flying balloons for 25 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 pirate themed program booklet put together by Mary Martin, Brittany Schultz and Jacki Bradham!

Blue Diamond

Balloon Name: Blue Diamond
Pilot: Rodney Newkirk, Rochester, MN
Sponsor: Viking Electronics

The folks at Viking Electronics are long time HHAA supporters who help bring special fun to the Torchlight Parade on Friday night.  They’re paired this year with first time HHAA pilot Rodney Newkirk.  He’s a private pilot and carpenter by trade who’s been ballooning for 10 years and attended last year as a crew member.  You’re in for a treat Rodney with the fun kazooing folks from Viking Electronics!

Liberty Bell

Balloon Name: Liberty Belle
Pilot: Mike Lesmeister, Rochester, MN
Sponsor: Viking Electronics

The folks at Viking Electronics are long time HHAA supporters who help bring special fun to the Torchlight Parade on Friday night. We’re pairing 16 year HHAA veteran Mike with the Viking crew.  Mike’s flying the red, white and blue slant design aerostat with 10 stars across the top.  He’s been flying balloons for 23 years and has 685 hours as pilot in command.  Thanks Viking Electronics for your continuous support of HHAA.

Starburst of Destiny

Balloon Name: Starburst of Destiny
Pilot: Bethany Reuter, Duluth, MN
Sponsor: ViXX Converting/Anchor Paper Co.

ViXX Converting and their owner Anchor Paper Co. are pleased to again partner with HHAA by providing the paper stock for this year’s brochure.  Bethany’s a second generation HHAA pilot as her father flew in Hudson back in the early days of the event.  Her Aerostar aerostat is black with multi-color shooting stars—a striking visual in any balloon rally.  We’re thrilled to have multi-generation pilots joining us to celebrate our 3oth year!

Rubber Duckie

Balloon Name: Rubber Ducky
Pilot: Bob O'Brien, Waupaca, WI
Sponsor: WESTconsin Credit Union

Best friends of HHAA—long time corporate sponsor WESTconsin Credit Union and 20 plus-year HHAA pilot Bob with his special shape balloon. Bob has stories—who else would set a HHAA record many years ago by flying when it’s 40-something degrees below zero?  Short flight but Bob, Neal and Ruth did it and have newspaper coverage to prove it.  Thanks to WESTconsin Credit Union we’ll have new design cups this year at the marketplace.  Check them out!

PH One

Balloon Name: PH One
Pilot: Pete Asp, Sullivan, WI
Sponsor: Woodland Hill

Welcome back sponsor Woodland Hill—a quality residential community offering senior apartments, assisted living, memory care and additional services. This is Pete’s second pilot visit to Hudson. He has been ballooning for nearly 40 years with 2,868 hours as pilot in command.  He has the only balloon repair station in Wisconsin. He’s been active in pilot training and is the FAA Designated Pilot Examiner for balloons for Wisconsin. Pete built PH One in 1995 and has done numerous design upgrades on it since.

Pink Lightning

Balloon Name: Pink Lightning
Pilot: John Parezo, Sioux Falls, SD
Sponsor: Zappa Bros

We recognize charter balloon sponsor Zappa Bros—this is the 3oth time the local company has partnered with HHAA to make sure our field is plowed and E.P. Rock launchfield is ready for balloons and visitors.  Welcome first time HHAA pilot John Parezo—he’s a teacher in his work life and has been ballooning in his fun life for 15+ years.  He’s commercially rated with 177 hours in the sky as pilot in command.