Hudson Hot Air Affair :: 2021 Balloons

Hot Air Affair Pop Up Balloon Launches

Balloon Launch

Twenty hot air balloons will be join the Hudson Hot Air Affair. Because of COVID-19 health concerns, there will NOT be a public launch field at EP Rock school. Instead, we are asking the public to bundle up, mask up, look up to see the colorful balloons flying over Hudson as they launch from various private locations around Hudson. The public will NOT be allowed at the launch sites.

General information on where to look for balloons in the sky will be available here shortly before the launches.


Morning Balloon Launch: Saturday, February 6 at 8:00 am

Drive-Thru Balloon and Candlestick Glow: Saturday, February 6 at 5:30 pm

Morning Balloon Launch: Sunday, February 7 at 8:00 am

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

2021 Balloons

Blaser SwissLube

Balloon Name: Blaser SwissLube
Pilot: Mark MacSkimming, Harrisburg, PA

Welcome back Blaser SwissLube to the Hudson winter festival. This is the third year for the Switzerland based company to attend.  They are in the metal working industry and this is the first time for pilot Mark to venture from Pennsylvania. Mark’s been ballooning for 29 years and has logged 2,346 as pilot in command.


Balloon Name: Bubbles
Pilot: John Bullock, Genoa City, WI

John’s wife Karen’s first flight was in the Phoenix balloon at HHAA in 1998. John’s flown in Hudson since 2004 as either a passenger or a pilot. His Bubbles balloon was purchased from former Hudson pilot Bill Marhoun and plied the sky over Hudson with both pilots over the years.

Candy Crush

Balloon Name: Candy Crush
Pilot: Pete Riehle, Forest Lake, MN

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 450 hours as pilot in command. Pete’s a commercial pilot flying in the St. Croix Valley and will be sky bound in Stillwater Balloon’s Candy Crush aerostat.

Cloud Nine

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

Welcome back balloonist Mark Naber for his tenth year. Mark is an information technology manager and has been a pilot for 13 years. He looks forward to visiting Hudson each year with his 1997 Firefly balloon. Mark helps on the pilot committee and provides updated weather information for flight decisions.


Balloon Name: Flo
Pilot: Don Dumke, Florence, WI

Welcome back pilot Don—who’s been flying for 7 years with 190 hours in the air as pilot in command. Don’s a health care worker looking forward to his fourth year at HHAA. We saw Don’s balloon Flo pictured at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in recent years!

Freedom Flight V

Balloon Name: Freedom Flight V
Pilot: Luke Cesnik, St. Cloud, MN

Welcome back Luke—a former HHAA balloonmeister and long-time participant in HHAA. Luke’s day job is as a computer consultant, but his passion is flying POW/MIA balloons around the country. He’s been ballooning for 31 years with 1,300 hours in the sky as pilot in command.

Full Throttle

Balloon Name: Full Throttle
Pilot: Jacob Riehle, Forest Lake, MN

This is Jake’s first year as a pilot at HHAA though he’s been attending the event forever. His dad was a HHAA balloonmeister years ago and his Mom Sue and Dad Pete are HHAA veterans. Jake’s gotten his pilot’s license and enough PIC hours to add his name to the HHAA pilot roster. Welcome aboard!

Kays WindDancer II

Balloon Name: Kay's WindDancer II
Pilot: Ken Walter, Waukesha, WI

Ken Walter is bringing his Lindstrand 90A balloon called Kay’s WindDancer II to Hudson this year. Thirty plus year pilot Ken and his balloon namesake wife Kay grew their own crew which includes their three sons. Look for Ken as one of the pilot committee in charge of this year’s ballooning event.

Late Night Discussions

Balloon Name:  Late Night Discussions
Pilot:  John Rucker, Genoa City, WI

This is John’s ninth year as a pilot at Hot Air Affair, after having been a crew member in Hudson for four years. He’s been flying for ten years and has 425 hours in the air. John and Denise missed HHAA 2020 because warm weather was calling—so welcome back for having fun in 2021!

Little Wing

Balloon Name: Little Wing
Pilot: Jim Wohlwend, Stillwater, MN

Jim was on the pilot roster when the HHAA started 30+ years ago and has been airborne ever since. He can be found flying the fleet of balloons at Aamodt’s Hot Air Balloon Rides in Stillwater and helping support the Hot Air Affair year-round. Thanks Jim, for being there when we call!

Livin' It Up

Balloon Name: Livin' It Up
Pilot: Terry Dorshorst, West Salem, WI

Terry is a flight nurse in the health care field in Southwestern Wisconsin.  He’s piloting in Hudson for his fourth time. He’s been ballooning for 11 years and enjoys the sport with his family. You’ll recognize his yellow, pink, purple and red balloon because of the stars!


Balloon Name: NavaJo
Pilot: Bob O’Brien, Waupaca, WI

Bob’s been flying at HHAA in Hudson since 1992 and isn’t letting a virus get in the way of Hudson fun!  He will be flying NavaJo Bob—a balloon with Southwest colors. It’s named after the Navajo Nation but he capitalized the “J” in the word for his wife and crew chief Mary “Jo”.

Northern Lights

Balloon Name: Northern Lights
Pilot: Missy Cool-Junker & Steve LeMay, Stillwater, MN

First pilot Missy Cool-Junker, second pilot Steve LeMay and balloon owner Josh Cool are St. Croix Valley regulars in the ballooning world. Missy’s been flying for 35+ years, Steven’s flown for 40+ years and Josh is the third generation of an aerostat family from Stillwater.


Balloon Name: Peacock
Pilot: Mike Lesmeister, Rochester, MN

HHAA veteran pilot Mike is flying the colorful Peacock—a black balloon with red, blue, orange, yellow, purple and pink highlights. He’s been flying balloons for 25 years and has 739 hours as pilot in command. He lists Lesmeister Fleet Service as his occupation and his passion is mentoring beginning balloon pilots.


Balloon Name: Phoenix
Pilot: Wynn Gustafson, Arden Hills, MN

Wynn’s record of HHAA attendance is unrivaled—he’s been at HHAA every year except when he was in the hospital. And he called in from his hospital bed for pilot check-in!! He’s been flying for 40 years with more than 1,000 hours as PIC. Look for “Gus” flying the Phoenix—the “True Spirit of Fire” from mythology.

Raven's Rhapsody

Balloon Name: Raven's Rhapsody
Pilot: Pete Asp, Sullivan, WI

This is Pete’s third pilot visit to Hudson. He has been ballooning for 41 years with nearly 3,000 hours as pilot in command. He’s flying his daughter Laura’s new balloon, which she purchased in October. Laura has been taking flight training, has passed her FAA written test and will likely have made her solo flight before Hot Air Affair in February.


Balloon Name: RE/MAX
Pilot: Doug Schmidt, Rochester, MN

Doug is flying for RE/MAX this year covering portions of Wisconsin and Minnesota. He’s been ballooning for about 40 years with 627 hours as pilot in command. We’re pleased Doug’s joining us in Hudson—we’re among dozens of community festivals and special events where you’ll see a RE/MAX balloon. Let’s celebrate the long-time partnership of HHAA and RE/MAX!

Texas Bluebonnet

Balloon Name: Texas Bluebonnet
Pilot: Nathan Dieringer, Menasha, WI

Welcome back pilot Nathan. He has been in ballooning for 38 years with 9 years as a pilot and has over 350 hours Pilot In Command. This year he will be returning to Hudson with another of his experimental balloons—a homebuilt RX6 named Texas Bluebonnet. We’re wondering how a Texas Bluebonnet will like our cold Wisconsin weather this weekend!


Balloon Name: Violet
Pilot: Mike Klawitter, Eland, WI

A private pilot and carpenter, Mike has been flying balloons for 27 years. He’s been a HHAA pilot for more than two decades and has 350 hours PIC… welcome back for more fun in 2021! Look for “Violet”—his multi-colored Head balloon with a violet color palette.


Balloon Name: Wildfire
Pilot: Sonja Belgarde, Sun Prairie, WI

Sonja’s been flying for 4 years and this is her third year at HHAA.  When she’s not flying (she has 115 hours of pilot in command time), she’s a nurse in the Madison, WI area. Sonja’s among the new generation of women pilots who have come to Hot Air Affair the past few years.