Hudson Hot Air Affair :: History

The Hudson Hot Air Affair is the premier winter ballooning event and winter festival in the Midwest. Thousands of visitors head to the St. Croix Valley community in west central Wisconsin and local residents make it a homecoming every year, usually on the first full weekend in February. About 35 colorful hot air balloons, including special shaped balloons, launch in mass ascensions Saturday and Sunday mornings and light up the night at the Saturday evening Moon Glow or Field of Fire. Balloonists traditionally attend from Wisconsin, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska.

Over the years, the event has seen aeronauts from New Mexico, California, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio, Michigan and Missouri. A full schedule of fun, winter events throughout the Hudson community bring delight to residents and visitors alike. Where else could you find a costumed torchlight parade, marching kazoo bands, smooshboarding, and hot air balloons all on the same weekend? Founded in 1990 through the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau, the festival is currently sponsored by Hudson Hot Air Affair Inc., a non-profit volunteer community organization.

Hudson Hot Air Affair is a spectator event with balloons sponsored by area businesses. No hot air balloon rides are sold. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, view the Sponsors page for more information.

Fun Facts About Hot Air Ballooning at the Hudson Hot Air Affair

(List compiled by Evonne Jordan, January 2010)

  • What year was the HHAA inaugural flight?
    • 1990
  • What is the largest number of balloons to fly in a HHAA event?
    • 56 Balloons
  • What is the fewest number of balloons to fly in a HHAA event?
    • 2 (due to bad weather)
  • What is the furthest state a pilot has come (from the West)?
    • California (pilot Jim Borchart)
  • What is the furthest distance a pilot has come (from the East)?
    • Pennsylvania
  • What very large reptile participated in the HHAA for 2 years?
    • The Sinclair Dinosaur
  • What was one of the smallest balloons to fly at the HHAA?
    • The Little Fishy
  • What local bank brought back a wild west mode of transportation?
    • Wells Fargo, the Stagecoach balloon
  • Who helps prevent forest fires, provides education to children about fire safety, and flies high?
    • The Smokey Bear balloon
  • What is the coldest temperature that balloons have flown at the HHAA?
    • -43 degrees F
  • In addition to the many traditionally-shaped hot air balloons, what uniquely-shaped balloons have participated in the HHAA?
    • Garfield, chicken, dinosaur, stagecoach, Chicky Boom, Balloon Hilda, Chesty the Bulldog, Smokey Bear, Wally the clown fish, rubber ducky, Burgess the Penquin, United Van Lines truck, Pepsi can, Uncle Sam, Peg Leg Pete the Pirate Parrot Balloon, Fred G Monster and Mr. Biddles the bear
  • How many of the pilots participating in the HHAA have been active every year (21 years)?
    • 1: Wynn Gustafson
  • What is a “Cloud Hopper”?
    • A small balloon without a basket
  • Who has been crazy enough to fly a “Cloud Hopper” at the Hudson Hot Air Affair?
    • Scott Adams, Phil McNutt and Dave Koenig
  • What is the significance of being a “Cow” at the HHAA?
    • The launch directors for the hot air balloon launches are wearing cow vests (the Wisconsin version of Albuquerque “Zebras”—the launch directors at Balloon Fiesta).
  • Name husband and wife teams that are balloon pilots and have participated at the HHAA?
    • Bill & Bonnie Marhoun, Janey & Bert Gaessler, Rose & Tim Akins, and Peggy,  Jim Wolfe & David & Kathy Reineke
  • Who has gone from flying Watermelons to flying Ducks?
    • Bob O’Brien
  • Who were the very first hot air balloon pilots?
    • The Montgolfier Brothers—Joseph Michael and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier
  • What was the date of the first demonstration of flight by the Montgolfier Brothers?
    • June 4, 1783 at Annonay, France
  • What local ballooning legend owns and has flown a replica of the Montgolfier balloon at the Hudson Hot Air Affair?
    • Matt Wiederkehr
  • What is the instrument played by the Viking Electronics marching band in the HHAA Torchlight Parade?
    • The kazoo (and lots of them!)
  • What was the purpose of gas-filled balloons during the Civil War?
    • Surveillance and scouting
  • Who was the last known pilot to fly a “smoke balloon”?
    • Peter Kreig (Indianapolis, IN) who did a demonstration for a spellbound HHAA crowd in 1998 in celebration of the Wisconsin Sesquicentennial.
  • Can a hot air balloon launch, fly and land at the same location?
    • Usually not, but there are exceptions: zero wind to fly (launch, go up, and come back down in the same spot) and in Albuquerque using the “box winds”