The Crazy Day of Tim Robertson

It started out innocently enough. I had taken the family, as I do every year, to the Battle Creek Hot-Air Balloon festival. Each year, hundreds of Hot-Air Balloon pilots come from around the world to compete in two-a-day challenges, and at the end of a week or ten days, the champion is awarded whatever the prize is.

Sounds like fun, no? As a spectator, you get to see a sky full of Hot-Air Balloons, floating majestically over the city and county. I have been watching them for twenty years.

Each year, the Battle Creek W.K. Kellogg Airport turns into a fun zone. There is a midway full of amusement rides for the kids, large and small. There are the rigged games, which my kids always want to try with the hope of winning a six-foot stuffed animal that I will end up selling in a garage sale the next spring.

There is the main concourse, full of vendors ranging from Elephant Ears, Corn Dogs, Kettle Corn, collectable pins, crafts, jewelry, corporate sponsors, and everything in between. On average, there is around two hundred or more vendors, and it takes hours to look at each booth.

Then there is the air-show. We have been lucky enough to host the Air Force Thunderbirds here during the Balloon festival. If you have never seen the Thunderbirds, or the Blue Angles, you are missing out on something really special. But not only do the Thunderbirds WOW the crowd, there is usually a full day of aircraft presenting an air show to the amusement of the crowds. Think stunt planes, Red Barron, etc… It is really fantastic.

As part of the Air Show, they also have the static air display, which gives crowds the opportunity to get up and personal to vintage aircraft you would not see anywhere else, as well as modern military hardware such as the Stealth Bomber. It is always really cool to walk through this part of the airfield every year.

The last few years, there has been less and less of everything. Slowly and methodically, the vendors have stopped coming. The air show is no more. The static air display? Gone. All the craft vendors? AWOL.

Now we come to 2004, and my kids are really looking forward to going out there and riding the rides, seeing the balloons, eating an elephant ear, and having our customarily good time. This will also be the first time our now one-year-old has gone, and Julie and I are pretty excited to see her reaction to the huge balloons, the bright lights, and all the rest.

We pay the $5.00 for parking. My wife and I, plus two kids (The one-year-old is free) admission comes to $28.00. To ride the rides, the kids both get the unlimited rides wristbands, which cost $18.00 a piece. (One ticket costs a buck now, and even the crappy rides take three tickets, so the wristbands are actually the most economical way to go.) We buy one elephant ear for the kids to share ($5.00) some Kettle Corn ($5.00) a bottle of water ($2.00), some sterling silver toe-rings ($10.00 for four of them) and the roasted Pecans. ($5.00) All told, we spent $96.00.

What do we get for our almost-hundred bucks? A quarter of the vendors as usual, and at least a fourth of those are booths to sign up for a credit card, after which you receive a cheap pair of plastic binoculars. (Okay, I took the cheesy umbrella.) A sad row of food vendors, most of whom sold the same thing as two booths down. A few cheapo, hand-made jewelry displays (hence the four toe-rings the older girls and my wife got.) One tee-shirt vendor. One balloon pin vendor. And… well, that is about it.

No air show, at least nothing anyone gave a crap about.

No Thunderbirds.

The same rides at the same sad amusement fair. Sure, the kids loved that part. My wife and I, not so much.

They did have a concert one night, in which Eddie Money and Grand Trunk Railroad played. You know, I can hear you yawning right now.

So I was, you know, kinda pissed off. I mean, what the hell are the people doing in charge of this thing, TRYING to kill it off? Our once proud tradition is a ghost of its former self! Sad, sad, sad…

So I did what any self-respecting writer does! I wrote an angry letter to the local newspaper, The Battle Creek Enquirer! Yeah, that will show them! Of course, I did not think it would be printed. I hoped it would be, but I had my doubts. This is the same paper who was interested in a weekly technology column from me, for which I sent is six samples / submissions two months ago, and no one has bothered to contact me to tell me how crappy my writing is, and not to quit my day job. (Opps! Already did! DRAT!)

It was printed in the Thursday, July 8, 2004 edition. Here is the link, my letter is the second from the top:

All fine and dandy. I got to vent in a public forum. Sure, I can do that everyday here at, and this website probably has a larger audience than the newspaper does. But still, there is something special about venting in a newspaper, that it takes a little more effort to do so or something. I dunno, it just felt more justified there. Besides, how many of you would care about any of this, right?

Then, the same day that runs in the paper (yesterday as I write this) I get a call from one of the local television stations, WWMT Channel 3. That is the station I usually watch for news. And, low and behold, it is one of their reporters, telling me that they had interviewed our city Mayor about the Balloon fest, and the Mayor tells them about a scathing letter in the newspaper about it. So they look me up in the phone book, call me, and I agree to do an interview two hours later.

So in one day, not only do I get my name in the paper, but interviewed on TV as well. You can watch the video of it at this link.

Crazy day, huh?


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