Honoring Brian Boland; experimental hot air balloons fly again in Post Mills

Honoring Brian Boland; experimental hot air balloons fly again in Post Mills

This weekend, hot air balloon pilots who specialize in fabricating their own balloons gathered to honor Brian Boland and the unique community he assembled around the hub of the Post Mills Airport. They came from many places, including Connecticut, Maine, and states out west. Some had enjoyed decades of friendship with Brian, like Paul Stumpf who had been one of Brian's art students in Connecticut where the passion for hot air balloons began. Paul, too, caught the balloon bug. His multicolored balloon (above) evoked a gorgeous stained glass window.

Accomplished pilot Kathy Delano, Brian's former wife and Connecticut business partner, and Jordan Long, who recently apprenticed with Brian, helped run the proceedings.

Left to right: Robert Zirpolo, George York, Bill Mill and Bob Weddel were among those unpacking hot air balloon equipment on Friday

As they set up, the pilots reminisced about Brian and his many inventions. He never missed an opportunity to be creative. When his barn collapsed under the weight of snow, he refused to heap it into a huge bonfire. Instead the shattered wood rose again in the form of the Vermontosaurus and its progeny.

A watchful Vermotosaurus, one of several

And who else would make a military vehicle out of old roofing, or a submarine from an old propane tank?

Or curate a museum of “rusty, dusty things?”

Brian, the artist and adventurer, crafted many experimental balloons in the loft of his museum. For piloting customers he used commercially made balloons, as dictated by government regulations. However, as one pilot observed, it's only when you make a balloon yourself that you know it intimately. The term "experimental" refers to such owner-built balloons.

Brian's whimsical Fish, a full-size balloon

He took one of the balloons he fabricated on an adventure in South America where delighted children decorated it with the outlines of their hands.

Boland's balloon, decorated with the outlines of hands, is caught by a gust of wind as Tina Foster looks on

His balloon pilot comrades paid tribute to Brian and his partner, Tina Foster, exactly as he would have wished — by flying their own creations.

A powerful fan blows in air to open up the balloon. Once open, the burner generates hot air to keep it inflated and make it rise
Readying for launch
Away they go
With enough creativity the sky's the limit

With gratitude to Tina Foster for making Brian's signature Post Mills Experimental Balloon Meet possible.

Photo credit: Li Shen