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 2016

Charlie Markert Balloons
Amadeus Cap’n Boo



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 is an I.T. manager 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 in their great clown outfits!  Thanks for being on the HHAA committee!

Hocus Pocus

Balloon Name: Hocus Pocus
Pilot: Dale Dommer, Ottumwa, IA
Sponsor: BMO Harris Bank

Dale says 2016 marks 24 years of flying balloons!  Thanks for returning to HHAA for the 8th year as pilot for BMO Harris Bank.  Dale has 672 hours in the air as pilot in command with a commercial rating.  Molly Johnson has worked at BMO Harris Bank in both Hudson and Ellsworth and heads up his Hudson balloon crew.  She’s an active HHAA volunteer helping to coordinate pilot activities—thanks for all the hard work!



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.  He’s got the experience with 38 years in ballooning and 1,350 hours as pilot. Larry’s Red Baron Balloon Club built the “easel” for Charlie Markert’s balloon art back in 1979.

Airganic Garden

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

Thanks to Comfort Suites of Hudson for embracing 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 and has 475 hours as pilot in command.  His 69,500 cubic foot Aerostar balloon will travel from western Minnesota in time to join others on Second Street in the Torchlight Parade Friday night.

Airganic Garden

Balloon Name: Barney
Pilot: Jim Wohlwend, Stillwater, MN
Sponsor: Dick’s Bar & Grill

Dick’s Bar & Grill is back with a balloon this year—riding in Barney, a 90,000 cubic foot Aerostar.  Jim was on the pilot roster when the event started 27 years ago and has flown more than 1,800 hours since.  He’s currently a pilot for Aamodt’s Balloon Rides, Inc.  Thanks Jim for helping with HHAA promotional events all year round and especially at YMCA Camp St. Croix. 

Airganic Garden

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

Welcome back a crowd favorite—the farm themed special shape balloon 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.


Balloon Name: NavaJo Bob
Pilot: Bob O’Brien, Waupaca, WI
Sponsor: First State Bank and Trust

Welcome back Bob—we’re so pleased as we haven’t seen you here as a pilot for some time!  First State Bank and Trust in downtown Hudson likes being a balloon sponsor and Bob likes coming to Hudson as either crew or pilot—plus we see him for his job sometimes during the summer.  It’s going to be a great combo!  Bob’s a 25 year pilot with 500+ hours as pilot in command.   


Balloon Name: The Patriot
Pilot: Keith Knefelkamp, Lakeland, MN
Sponsor: Freedom Valu Centers

Welcome back Keith as a HHAA pilot—pairing the Stillwater Balloons’ patriotic red, white and blue balloon with long time HHAA sponsor Freedom Valu Centers.  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.  Thanks to Freedom Valu Centers for bringing their concession trailer to the launch field every year to serve as our announcer wagon.

Nifty Gadget

Balloon Name: RE/MAX Maximum Exposure
Pilot: Ken Walter, Waukesha, WI
Sponsor: Deanna & Mike Grigus, Hudson, WI

Here’s a great combination for Hot Air Affair—long time pilot and super helper Ken Walter and sponsor Deanna Grigus.  You’ll find Ken doing school programs and Deanna behind a camera snapping pictures for HHAA publicity shots.  This is the second year Deanna and her husband, Mike, are balloon sponsors and the whole family promotes HHAA at various events.  Daughter Audra is a committee member helping promote via social media.

Not Yet Named

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

This is John’s fifth year as a pilot at Hot Air Affair, having been a crew member in Hudson for four years.  He’s been flying for 7 years and has 245 hours in the air.  This is the sixth 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: Valley Girl
Pilot: Mike Murray, Stillwater, MN
Sponsor: Hudson Hot Air Affair

Mike’s another pilot for Aamodt’s Balloon Rides in Stillwater—this time partnering with the event to fly guests and media.  The Hudson rally has been a favorite for photographers, videographers and artists for many years—the combo of white snow and colorful balloons can’t be beat!  Mike’s a 10 year pilot logging 349 hours as pilot in command.

Gus T. Guppy

Balloon Name: Gus T. Guppy
Pilot: Larry Konash, Burnsville, MN
Sponsor: Hudson House Grand Hotel

Larry’s the manager of RPS IMC, the Twin Cities aviation insurance company that has been a long time HHAA supporter.  Larry’s been ballooning for 43 years plus he has flown fixed wing and many other flying machines.   Gus T. Guppy’s flown all over the United States and we’re so pleased to have his smiling yellow face back in Hudson.  He will be carrying charter HHAA balloon sponsor Hudson House Grand Hotel—27 years of continuous support.


Balloon Name: Bubbles
Pilot: John Bulloch, Genoa City, WI
Sponsor: Hudson Physicians

John took his first balloon flight as a passenger in Hudson in 1999 with pilot Duane Waack.  His first flight as a balloon owner was in Hudson in 2004 with pilot Bill Marhoun.  His daughter Elizabeth is a 16-year-old student pilot.  His full time job is as a Federal Safety Inspector.  Hudson Physicians has stepped up to sponsor John’s blue balloon with three smiling goldfish on the envelope.  Look for smiles on spectator faces as this duo goes into the air over Hudson.


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

Rich and the Hudson Hauts, Wayne and Jean, Rich says there are many facets to operating a balloon.  His most recent new experience involved pursuing payment for his balloon services through small claims court.  He says this involved more paperwork and forms than applying for a world record or FAI Silver Badge with 3 diamonds—both of which he has.  He was awarded a judgment in his favor but still has no payment money from the defendant. Hang in there Rich!


Balloon Name: Lucy
Pilot: Scott Aamodt, Stillwater, MN
Sponsor: LeeAnn Chin

Scott’s a 28 year balloon pilot whose company was at the very first Hot Air Affair in 1990.  He’s a HHAA committee member who always helps promote year round, especially at the St. Paul Winter Carnival parades.  His balloons can be seen launching from Aamodt’s Apple Orchards west of Stillwater.  Welcome new sponsor Hudson LeeAnn Chin—a new business on the Hill.  Try their food at the E.P. Rock School marketplace concession area this year.


Balloon Name: Northern Lights
Pilot: Missy Cool-Junker, Stillwater, MN
Sponsor: Lift Me Up Balloon-John & Evy Nerbonne

This balloon’s mission is to provide a balloon ride to someone touched by cancer or another life challenge.  Family members Josh Harp-Cool and Missy Cool-Junker have teamed up to fly the St. Croix River Valley.  Josh followed his passion and bought a balloon this past summer and after years away from the sport, Missy began flying again with Josh.  He hopes to own his own balloon business some day.  


Balloon Name: Jester Unwindz
Pilot: Matthew Grote, Omaha, NE
Sponsor:Living with Dementia Balloon/St. Croix Electric Cooperative

Welcome a new balloon and message this year.  The St. Croix County Aging and Disability Resource Center teamed up with St. Croix Electric Cooperative and Bill and Kathy Meyer from Indianapolis to underwrite a balloon sponsorship.  They want to share the story of living with dementia through a passenger ride experience.  Welcome new pilot Matthew Grote, a 14-year pilot with 344 hours, who’s helping with this cause.


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

Welcome back Minuteman Press as a sponsor—and Mike and his Phoenix balloon.  The Phoenix was at HHAA many years ago….and like its namesake, is reborn back in Hudson.  Mike’s a 19 year pilot and shares the Greek mythology story that the Phoenix is a bird of fire and is regenerated—rising from its own ashes.  How’s that for a story Pete?  Thanks to Pete, Cindy, Linda and everyone at Minuteman for all your HHAA help.    



Balloon Name: Barney
Pilot: Jim Wohlwend, Stillwater, MN
Sponsor: Oakwood Dental

Here’s a pair of great friends to HHAA—Jim’s a long-time local pilot who helps with HHAA events all year long.  Oakwood Dental’s a long-time local business that steps up each year to help bring the winter festival to life.  Thanks to both!  We appreciate the continued support of Oakwood Dental—check out their coupon in the HHAA brochure.          


Balloon Name: The Patriot
Pilot: Keith Knefelkamp, Lakeland, MN
Sponsor: Pier 500

Thanks Keith for working with sponsor Pier 500 this year.  Ed Chapman usually flies for Pier 500 but Ed’s coordinating the four Charlie Markert vintage hand-painted balloons this year.  Ed’s put together a team to show off the artistic masterpieces at each launch.  Thanks for sharing Ed and welcome back Pier 500—the perfect spot to watch the Torchlight Parade on Friday night.     


Balloon Name: Lucy
Pilot: Scott Aamodt, Stillwater, MN
Sponsor: PressEnter!

Scott’s returned to the tundra from his warm winter retreat in Texas to help at HHAA this year.  He’s flying for long-time HHAA supporter PressEnter!  Scott will be back flying the fleet of balloons at Aamodt’s Hot Air Balloon Rides once spring arrives.  Thanks to PressEnter for hosting our web site and coordinating the photo contest again this year—we appreciate your long standing partnership with HHAA.   


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 34 years, logging 587 hours as pilot in command.  Mike plans to participate in the media flights and Torchlight Parade.  RE/MAX has been listed in every HHAA brochure since 1991.   Thanks for the unflagging support to HHAA.

Nifty Gadget

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

Ken Walter is back at HHAA this year with his RE/MAX balloon.  We so appreciate Ken’s help with media flights, school programs and the popular Torchlight Parade.  Ken has been the RE/MAX corporate pilot in Wisconsin since 2002 covering the entire Central, Southern and Eastern parts of the state.  He makes appearances from Green Bay to Wausau and areas south to Prairie du Chien.

Nifty Gadget

Balloon Name: Nifty Gadget
Pilot: Chris Keefe, Oshkosh, WI
Sponsor: Resco

Welcome back Chris to Hudson as a HHAA pilot.  We’ve traveled the ballooning circuit with Chris for more than 20 years watching him crew for others—especially the Wisconsin Balloon.  We’re pleased you’re back in Hudson as a pilot Chris.  Thanks to Resco—a HHAA charter balloon sponsor—that means stepping up to bring a hot air balloon to Hudson for all 27 years we’ve been doing this!!

Crayola Lite

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

A 27-year pilot with 600+ hours in the sky, Mike holds a commercial rating for his Firefly balloon.  He’s partnered 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.  

Crayola Lite

Balloon Name: Dear John
Pilot: John Trione, Williams Bay, WI
Sponsor: St. Croix Lanes

Welcome new sponsor St. Croix Lanes and welcome back balloonist John Trione.  John’s a commercial balloon pilot who’s been flying for 19 years.  His Lake Geneva Balloon business is a popular attraction in the southern Wisconsin town.  St. Croix Lanes patrons in love with the green and gold will appreciate this pairing—Go Packers!

Crayola Lite

Balloon Name: Full Throttle
Pilot: Steve Meister, Stillwater, MN
Sponsor: St. Croix Kidds Pediatric Dentistry

Long time HHAA pilot Steve Meister is welcoming a new sponsor this year—you’re in good hands St. Croix Kidds Pediatric Dentistry!  Steve’s a pilot for Aamodt’s Balloons and a HHAA helper for many, many years.  We appreciate new balloon sponsors to help HHAA sustain and grow and we hope you have a wonderful first sponsor year experience.


Balloon Name: The Patriot
Pilot: Keith Knefelkamp, Lakeland, MN
Sponsor: Stillwater Balloons

Thanks Steve Jacobs and Stillwater Balloons for being a friend of HHAA year round.  Steve’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 and Yellowstone Trail Heritage Days plus Steve’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.


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

A private pilot and long time HHAA participant, Mike has been flying balloons for 20+ years and has 425 hours as pilot in command.  He’s been a HHAA pilot for nearly two decades and flies a 77,000 cubic foot Head balloon.  Al and his crew from The UPS Store help 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: Cloud Dancer
Pilot: Bill Buchar, Shorewood, IL
Sponsor:r: Viking Electronics

This is a bitter sweet year for employees of Viking Electronics.  The company has been a HHAA supporter from nearly the beginning with owner Don Springer bringing sponsor money and enthusiasm to help the event.  But Don passed away this past year—look for a special tribute to Don at his favorite Torchlight Parade on Friday night.  Welcome new pilot Bill, who’s an airline pilot in his other life—enjoy your first visit to Hudson.

Crayola Lite

Balloon Name: Crayola Lite
Pilot: Wynn Gustafson, Arden Hills, MN
Sponsor: ViXX Converting/Anchor Paper Co.

Gus was on the very first pilot roster in 1990 and says he’s only missed one year of HAA due to a visit to the hospital.  He’s been flying balloons for 35 years and logged nearly 1,000 miles in the air.  ViXX Converting and their owner Anchor Paper Co. are pleased to partner with HHAA again by providing the paper stock for this year’s brochure—thanks Todd & crew!  They’re giving their ride this year to a cancer patient as one of the HHAA cause balloons.

Too Fun

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

It’s a winning combination with HHAA pilot John Lewis and his crew chief wife Barb and 7th year corporate sponsor WESTconsin Credit Union.  John’s been flying for 15 years, logging 195 hours in the air.  Welcome back WESTconsin Credit Union as our corporate sponsor!  They’re giving their balloon ride this year to a cancer survivor as part of the cause balloon fleet.  They have tickets for the Taste of Hot Air Affair—pick them up at the Hudson office.


Balloon Name: Sparky
Pilot: TJ Olson, Sioux Falls, SD
Sponsor: Zappa Bros.

Making his first trip to Hudson, TJ’s paired with charter balloon sponsor Zappa Bros.  TJ’s been ballooning for four years and his balloon earned its name from its inaugural flight with the current flight team.  Before they even made it to the launch site, their trailer became unhinged and started sliding down the road—sparks flying everywhere!  In case they need help in Hudson, the folks at Zappa are experts—they’ve been helping us for 27 years!




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