Students talking about a balloon landing on the green are not full of hot air.
Tuesday evening, balloonists Devin Burnham, Darcy Burnham, Sue Markl and Ryan Peskey landed a hot air balloon fondly named “Mystic” on Augustana’s campus green. Peskey, a balloonist-in-training whose landing destination had been the campus green all along, piloted the balloon. The remaining riders acted as co-pilot and landing crewmembers.
The balloonists took off from Tutt Hill Tuesday afternoon.
“As you can tell, the wind died,” Markl said.
“Usually under 10 miles per hour they won’t fly,” Darcy Burnham added.
Nevertheless, Peskey landed the balloon right where he had intended to, flying over Augustana’s chapel and stopping in the middle of the Green. The Burnham couple received special permission from Campus Safety to land the balloon where they did.
It was not a coincidence that they chose Augustana; the Burnham couple is very involved as a family in Augustana’s Dance Marathon. Peskey was inspired by the Children’s Miracle Network logo, which is a hot air balloon.
“I had my first ride 21 years ago,” Darcy Burnham said. She had been waitressing at the time, and she regularly served coffee to two men who were balloon owners themselves.
Now, Darcy Burnham and her husband Devin own three balloons, two of which are round. The third is a football-shaped racer balloon named “Pyro.” Last year, Devin Burnham piloted Pyro into a third place finish in the annual Sioux Falls balloon race.
Markl, a member of the ground crew, has a list of balloon-related accomplishments as well, including participating in a record-breaking hot air balloon flight that lasted over 30 hours.
“We fly year round,” Darcy Burnham said. The coldest flight either of them had ever made was at an ambient temperature of 28 degrees below zero.
“We just got a brand new balloon and I wanted to try it,” Devin Burnham said.
In addition, the Burnhams give paid rides in their hot air balloons, whose weight capacity changes based on the outside temperature and the balloon being flown.
While these four may view this flight as a run-of-the-mill occurrence, it was anything but to community members and Augustana students.
Diana Burgers, one such Sioux Falls resident, was so startled by the sight of the hulking balloon’s approach that she called out in surprise to her 92-year-old landlord, Ernie.
“Where are they going to land?” she asked. Both were so curious that Burgers walked over to the campus to see for herself and assure her landlord that everyone was okay.
“I’m just glad nobody was hurt,” Burgers said.
Burgers’ surprise was echoed in the Augustana community by sophomore Charissa Etrheim.
“I was really surprised that the hot air balloon was landing in the middle of Sioux Falls,” Etrheim said. “I was really excited, too, because I’ve never been that close to a hot air balloon before.”
For the Burnhams, the allure of ballooning lies elsewhere. Instead, the best part about ballooning is “the friendship, the camaraderie,” Devin Burnham said.
“And the peacefulness,” Darcy Burnham said.