Pilots & Balloons

Cheers to the 44th Anniversary of the Great Forest Park Balloon Race

01John Marlow, joined Ted Staley, John Schaumburg, and Dan Schettler and formed the famed Mississippi River Balloon Transit Company in 1973. They became close friends, pilots (and kept their real jobs).
In 1977 they became organizers of the Great Forest Park Balloon Race. Their first goal: The race would always be free – no entry, parking or other fees. “The race changed our lives in a wonderful way”, says Marlow, President of the Race. “We’ve toasted births of our children, their weddings and our childrens’ children, attended funerals of our parents, and been there for each other for the good and the not so good happenings of life.

At a party or gathering, the Balloon Guys somehow always end up together. It has been an extraordinary and wonderful 44-year journey. We were lucky to be have been connected by a friend in common, John Primm. None of us knew all the others. How would I have ever guessed what would evolve from that conversation with Primm, when he asked “Hey, you want to get together with some guys and buy a used hot-air balloon?”

032Mike Bien – Private Entry
Chesterfield, MO
Mike began flying airplanes during college and received his pilot’s license in 1972. He was eventually balloon certified in 1984 and now operates Ballonacy, a local balloon ride business. A native St. Louisan, Mike identifies his roots as attending Little Flower and then Bishop DuBourg high school.

05Michael Blum – Beemster’s Cheese
Jersey City, NJ
Michael Evan Blum grew up in Wheeling, W.Va., and graduated from Colgate University with a bachelor’s degree in political science with a concentration on International Relations. Since the fall of 2004, Michael has managed operations for Beemster cheese, a premium gourmet Dutch cheese, in the United States. In March of 2007, he decided to mix his hobby of ballooning with his career by having “Betty Bovine” (affectionately named for Michael’s mother) built for Beemster. Since March of 2007 the balloon has flown in 18 states.

031Michael Boylan – Miller
Washington, IL
Works as a systems analyst, has a wife Wendy and two grown children. Began flying hot air balloons in 1992. Commercial license in 1994. Won category in Balloon Federation’s Long Jump competition in 2001 for small balloons. Longest flight: 138 miles. Highest: 11,500 ft. Fastest: 58 mph.

016Roy Caton – Peabody
Cedar Hill, MO
Roy started flying hot air balloons in 1977. He earned his private pilots certificate in 1978, and earned his commercial rating the following year. Caton started flying full time as a professional pilot in 1982, the year that United Van Lines started their program, now the second longest running balloon program in the United States. His travels have taken him to all 48 continental states, driving over one million miles, and logging over 2000 hours of flying time.

09Tom Caton – Daniel & Henry Company
House Springs, MO
“I am a commercial pilot and have been flying for over 20 years. Flying a balloon is like soaring with the eagles… the views are breathtaking and seeing all kinds of wildlife adds to the excitement! Ballooning is a team sport and I could not do it without the help of my crew chief, best friend and wife (the same person), Cyndi, and other wonderful crew.”

keithKeith Fear – PNC Bank #1
House Springs, MO
A 23-year veteran Commercial Hot Air Balloon pilot, Keith owns and operates Balloons Over The Rainbow, one of the largest Hot Air Balloon ride businesses in St. Louis. Additionally, he owns World Balloon in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the company that introduced balloon rides to Albuquerque 41 years ago. His company introduces thousands of people a year to the art and majesty of Hot Air Ballooning in both St. Louis and Albuquerque. Come join Keith for the experience of a lifetime!

028Greg Hanson – Wehrenberg Theaters
House Springs, MO
Greg began crewing for hot air balloons in 1976. He began taking pilot lessons in 1977. Greg received his commercial certificate in 1979 and began flying full time. Greg has accumulated 2200-plus hours and has flown balloons such as the Energizer Bunny® Hot ‘Hare’ Balloon and the 7UP Can in 35-plus states. Greg lives with his wife Karen in House Springs. In his spare time, Greg can be found in a fishing boat on a quiet lake, hoping to catch “the one that didn’t get away!”

023John Hitron – Lion’s Choice Company
Louisville, KY
John has been flying balloons for 27 years. He has flown in races and balloon events around the country and is a past president of the Balloon Society of Kentucky. He is an architect in “real life” and this is his 20th appearance at the GFPBR.

Glo Kehoe – Energizer Bunny® Hot ‘Hare’ Balloon
Albuquerque, NM
For the past 10 years, Glo has been a pilot for America’s largest hot air balloon, the Energizer Bunny® Hot ‘Hare’ Balloon. She belongs to an elite group of only six women in the U.S. who make their career as full-time corporate balloon pilots. Glo’s ballooning career has taken her to more than 40 states. The most treasured award she has received was the Spirit of Ballooning, presented to her by her fellow pilots at an event in Tucson, Az.

02Terry & Jeanette Montague – Taubman Prestige Outlets
Columbia, MO
Terry Montague, pilot of Patches and a commercial pilot, has been flying since 1996. Terry, his wife Cindy, son J.T and step daughters Christa & Jordan currently reside in Plattsburg, MO. With the help of their crew, they have brought the excitement of ballooning to their local community and hope to continue sharing that passion for many years to come.

022Steve Mroz – Re/Max of St. Louis
St. Louis, MO
Started flying hot air balloons in 1978. Logged over 3,000-plus hours in balloons with 100% safety record. FAA Certificate – Gas Balloons. Flown in over 30 states throughout the U.S. Flown many shapes, including United Van Lines “truck” and 7UP “can.” Most memorable flight: high altitude flight to 35,000 feet. Long distance flight of 276 miles in hot air balloon. Currently flying full time doing aerial advertising for RE/MAX.

025Joe Nusrala – Private Entry
St. Louis, MO

06David Rapp – Private Entry
St. Louis, MO
David is a licensed balloon, airship, glider and airplane pilot. He is an FAA Designated examiner, Director of Balloon Federation of America (BFA), balloon ground school instructor at St. Louis Community College and author of the BFA’s Flight Instructor Manual. He is most often seen training student pilots in St. Louis.

015Joe Ream – Fox 2 & KPLR 11 #1
Champaign, IL
Joe is one-half of the team along with fellow Ralph Senn of the TOMATO BROTHERS and they have been long-time participants in the GFPBR. The pair own and operate a campus pizza chain in major midwest college towns. They are both rated in balloons as well as fixed wing craft.

04Larry Salters – PNC Bank#2
High Ridge, MO
Larry earned his pilot’s license in 1978 and then flew commercially for The Balloon Inc. full-time for 3 years and part-time since then. A strong competitor, Larry has flown throughout the U.S. and in Canada.

012Dan Schettler – Humane Society of St. Louis
St. Louis, MO
As Executive VP, Dan is a key factor in the success of the Great Forest Park Balloon Race. He organizes the entire launch field. He is a commercial pilot and had done numerous promotions for local and regional firms. Dan is a member of the organization that has produced the Forest Park Race since 1977.

34Jan Sines – Lindenwood University
Jefferson City, MO
Jan Sines, piloting Fontbonne University’s Soaring Eagle II, has been a commercial pilot for 38 years. Ballooning has given her and her husband, Gary, the opportunity to fly in many interesting places including Inner Mongolia China, France, Costa Rica, Puerto Rica, Mexico and Canada.

08Bill Smiley – City of St. Louis
Olathe, KS
Bill has been flying balloons for 28 years. Bill is a Mechanical Engineer in Kansas City. He restores antique cars in his spare time and loves to water-ski. Bill has attended the Great Forest Park Balloon Race for the last 19 years.

018Ted Staley – Private Entry
St. Louis, MO
The 1984 winner of the GFPBR, Ted placed second at the 1987 VP Fair Race. Involved in ballooning since 1973, he has flown commercially and in competition in more than twenty states. Ted is a principal in the Mississippi River Balloon Transit Co., an Aerostar Balloon dealer and a commercial balloon operator. He recently completed a gas balloon flight over Germany. He is also an officer of the GFPBR and in his free time, an industrial sales rep.

020Gary Tarter – St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Fishers, IN
A commercial balloon pilot, he first started flying in 1976. Gary has attended US Nationals in Iowa for many years and has attended Albuquerque Fiesta every year since 1977. He has been to many rallies in Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Indiana and is a member of the 2-Mile High Club.

026John Trione – KMOX Radio
Burlington, WI

033Ken Walter – Nawgan
Waukesha, WI
Ken is a commercial hot air balloon pilot who owns and operates WindDancer Balloon Promotions. He co-owns “Kay’s WindDancer” balloon with his wife, Kay.

011Ken Weiner – AT&T #2
O’Fallon, IL
Kenny has been flying hot air balloons since 1991 when he was trained by his mother and grandfather. He is a 4th generation lighter-than-air pilot. With his family, he was a primary pilot for the Seasons Hot Air Balloon Team. Kenny is currently an Air Force pilot and he flies C-17 Globemaster IIIs .

014Jim Wolters – Missouri Lottery
Jefferson City, MO
Jim Wolters is the BFA’s 1993 Missouri state champion. He is ranked 19th in the nation in the BFA competition division.

013Beth Wright-Smith – Wells Fargo Financial Advisors
Albequerque NM
Not only is she a distant relative of the Wright Brothers, Beth Wright-Smith, from Albuquerque, New Mexico, is also certified as a Balloon Federation of America Master Instructor, FAA Aviation Safety Counselor, and has reached Level VII (the highest level) in the BFA Pilot Achievement Award Program. She continues to balloon full-time, flying passenger rides, corporate flights and student pilot training.

35Alan Zielinski – Thompson Price Kitchens/Baths/Homes
Niles, IL
Alan has been flying for over 30 years. He began flying aircraft in 1973 and discovered ballooning in 1979. Has over 10,000 hours of accident-free flying. He’s involved in teaching Civil Air Cadets and flying in the EAA’s young Eagles program. Holds six world speed records in Citation jets. Is an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner.

Joe-richie Joe Richie – School of Rock
Sullivan, MO
Joe began crewing for Hot Air Balloons in 1989. He obtained his Private Pilot Certificate in 1994 and his commercial certificate in 1995. Since then he has flown for pleasure, passenger flights, competitively and commercially throughout the mid-west. One of his proudest ballooning moments was winning the 2009 Centralia, IL Balloon Fest, his hometown, and receiving the prestigious “High Fly” cup that same year. The “High Fly” cup is presented to those pilots who are “true ballooning ambassadors” and is given in honor of his flight instructor, the late Wes Rinker. Richie, along with co-pilot Scott Wooge, are also the winners of the 2010 Balloon Federation of America “Team Long Jump Challenge”

gary-w.Gary Whitby – Action ATM Banking Network
Columbia, MO
Gary was born and raised in St. Louis and attended the Great Forest Park Balloon Race in it’s early years and dreamed of flying his own balloon in the event. After volunteering at a balloon event he decided to get his own balloon. In 1996 he ordered one and has been flying ever since. He has competed in the U.S. Nationals Hot Air Balloon Championships and flown in events across the United States as well as in Mexica at the International Festival Del Globosheld in Mexico. He has hundreds of accident-free hours as a pilot in command. Gary and Cindy Whitby live in Columbia, MO. Gary owns and operates a Pepperidge Farm Distributorship in Central Missouri and also works at Joe Machens Ford, Lincoln in Columbia. Contact Gary at: gary@columbiaballoon.com.

September 16-17, 2016

Celebrating our 44th Year

The oldest and most well-attended
FREE Hot-Air Balloon Event in the World
View 2015
Official Program