See our 2017 Pilots below!
With decades of experience at our festival and beyond our Balloon Meister, Bill Whidden, brings us the best pilots in the country!
Darrek Daoust, “Every flight is a new adventure. What is most enjoyable is the great people you are able to meet from all over the world. From Bermuda to the Azores, Cape Town to Moscow. Darrek began his hot air ballooning career as crew in the mid 1990’s, but before too long, realized that he wanted his own balloon. Darrek graduated from a 141 Flight School located in Park City, Utah. Darrek is a FAA Certified Commercial Pilot, flying year round in Quechee. He has had the pleasure of flying in Italy, parts of Europe and Canada.
Eric La Montagne took his first hot air balloon flight in 1983 at the age of six with his parents. Since then, flying and building balloons has been a wonderful adventure. After a time away from the sport, Eric’s interest in ballooning was renewed in 2014. Eric flew in last year’s Quechee festival and hopes to fly in many more. Eric and his family enjoy flying in Vermont and their home state of Rhode Island.
Walt Rudy has been a Commercial Hot Air Balloon Pilot since 1984 and has flown over 1,100 hours. He has also been a Fixed Wing Private Pilot since 1977. His other interests include being members of an Inflation Team- he and his wife are co-pilots for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. He also enjoys sailboating, and was the past president of the Central Ohio Balloon Club.
Jason Boucher is a second generation hot air balloon pilot from Chester, NH. In 2004 Jason decided he wanted to take his love of ballooning to a new height and in just 10 short months Jason accomplished his goal and became a commercial hot air balloon pilot. He has flown in NJ, NY, ME, CT, MA, VT, NH and Canada logging in over 700 hours of flight time.
Jack Edling received his Fixed Wing Pilot License when he was a Boy Scouts at age 16, and has been a Hot Air Balloon Pilot since 1985. He flies in the area Northwest of Philadelphia, PA and attends about eight balloon festivals per year. He was been a board member of Great Eastern Balloon Association from 1998-2006, and was President of the Great Eastern Balloon Association from 2004-2006. He enjoys flying large inflatable animal kites when it is too windy for hot air balloon flights, and also enjoys throwing boomerangs- yes they do fly and return but you have to catch them for the flight to be counted in competition.
Tim Strand is a commercial balloon pilot from Bloomsbury NJ. He and wife Clare, who is also a commercial balloon pilot, have enjoyed attending the Quechee Balloon Festival for the nearly twenty years. Tim has flown hot air balloons for 27 years, including corporate balloons for the House of Seagram’s, Paine Webber, and Wathne Clothiers. I have lots of great memories and stories of flying in the Quechee area. This year, our chase crew includes Tracy Leaver, also a balloon pilot. Most years, Tim and Clare travel out-of-state to at least one balloon event per month, including the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico, and even as far away as New Zealand on occasion.
Robert Ward has always been fascinated by flight. “I’m amazed by the variety of flying insects and birds that God created. So, I’m pleased that through simple physics, I can fly, too! I love the peaceful serenity of a balloon flight in the cool, early morning. I love the evening flights as the sun is lowering on the horizon. I enjoy tethering at balloon events, because it introduces the magic of ballooning to so many people! Come, give it a try!”
Mark Fritze My first balloon ride was in 1979, where I met my significant other. About 5 years later I helped a balloonist rescue his balloon from a light pole and from then on, I was hooked. He taught me to fly and I got my license in 1993. I am currently enjoying my third balloon and have acquired over 1,100 hours flying. I really love to take people up for their “bucket list” experience. I also enjoy some friendly competition. Years ago when I heard rave reviews of the Quechee Balloon Festival, I immediately got on the waiting list (Yes, there is a waiting list because the pilots who have previously attended get first priority and they love the event so much, it’s hard to get in). So, it looks like I’ll finally get a chance to experience all the wonderful things I’ve heard about Quechee.
Kenny Shumate The Balloonatic Promotions is owned and operated by veteran pilot Ken Shumate. Ken has been flying hot air balloons for over 27 years and has logged over 2000 hours in the air. Ken is also a certified flight instructor and has trained over 45 new pilots. He has flown balloons of all sizes and shapes from the 2X Cloud Hopper models to the large 210,000 cubic foot 10 passenger balloons and special shape balloons like the United Van Lines truck balloon, the Brazilian Clown Balloon and the Amazon Birds balloon.The Balloonatic Promotions puts its emphasis on providing you a safe, fun and exciting adventure that you will remember for years to come. Our years of experience and spotless safety record will assure you of just that.
Dick Varney Back in 1982, I had the pleasure of going to my very first hot air balloon festival, here in Quechee, VT. It was an awesome experience! Several years later, my wife Ellen, bought me a gift certificate for a balloon ride… but I had developed a “Fear of Height”, so the certificate sat on our window shelf for over 4 years. Eventually, I got the nerve to call the pilot and make a reservation for the flight. After several weather related cancellations, I got to fly with my Father and Dr. Clayton Thomas, our pilot. It took about 10 minutes for the fear to disappear and the joy and exhilaration to take over! Two weeks later I had my first balloon flying lesson and two months later we purchased our first balloon… my wife calls me an “impulse buyer” ! That was 1991 and we have been enjoying flying hot air balloons and sharing this beautiful form of flight with 1,000’s of passengers ever since!
Mike Fleury grew up in White River Junction and graduated Hartford High School Class of ’67, and will be attending his 50th class reunion the week after the Quechee Balloon Festival! After graduating from UVM in 1972, he moved to Denver, where he developed a love for hot air ballooning and obtained his license. He and his wife, Becky, have operated a hot air balloon company in Tucson for many years (Fleur de Tucson Balloon Tours). Mike has participated in the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival for the last 35 years, even winning a new Ford truck in a key grab at that event!
A Tethered Ride gives riders a taste of Ballooning while being held down by long ropes only floating up to 50 feet in the air. They are a great way for small children or elders to experience a balloon ride. Like all other Balloon Rides, tethered ride are also weather permitting. Each ride lasts 5 – 10 minutes .Tethered rides are available for purchase during the festival weekend only, no pre-sales, for $20.
An Ascension Ride or the typical balloon ride is between 30 – 40 minutes with the whole experience taking about 2 hours. The balloons take off together and soar hundreds of feet in the air, gracefully moving over the landscapes of Quechee, VT and beyond. The balloons land outside the festival grounds, end with champagne and transportation back to the festival. They are available for purchase before and during the festival for $235.00. All balloon rides are wind and weather dependent.