Balloons Over Bowling Green
There’s something about watching hot air balloons that appeals to everybody.
Could it be the simple grace of seeing a multi-colored, pear-shaped bag floating
gently across the sky? Or maybe the bright glow of the gas jets filling the sack
against the dusk of falling night? Or perhaps it’s just the idea of standing in
a wicker basket, moving slowly at the whim of the wind?
If seeing one or two balloons fills you with awe, just imagine what it’s
like to see a flotilla of them-20 or 30 bright balls filling the sky. You can
do that very thing this month at the annual Balloon Classic in Bowling Green,
July 21-22. It’s part of a grand party that’s been going on there for the past
What many visitors don’t understand, however, is that this isn’t just a
collection of balloons. It’s a series of competitions, part of a circuit run by
hot air balloon enthusiasts. For instance, on each day of the event, there are
target trials. Streamers are tied to several pylons out at the Barren County Regional
Airport, center of all the activities. The balloonists then truck their craft
a minimum set distance away-usually a mile or two. They then launch and float
toward the pylons. When they get as close as they think they’ll be, they drop
weights. Whoever’s weight lands closest to the pylon wins. There are at least
two target trials (one each day) during the Classic.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds. It takes fine judgment from a mile or
more away to figure how the winds will affect the path your balloon will travel.
In fact, many contestants actually launch much farther away than required in order
to fully play the breezes. You can maneuver up and down using your gas jets and
control lines, which helps you take advantage of varying wind speeds and air currents.
But lateral movement is controlled strictly by the wind.
Then there’s the Hare & Hound race. For this one, a single balloon
is launched. After a set time has passed to give it a lead, all the other contestants
launch, en masse, trying to catch it. This makes for a very dramatic scene, as
several score of balloons suddenly fill the air. The launch is always a crowd-pleaser.
Watching others ride in balloons is one thing. Riding in one yourself is
something else altogether. And you can do that, too, at the Balloon Classic. Tethered
rides are offered for a modest fee. The balloons are anchored to the ground on
long cables, so you get the feel of what it’s like to ride in a hot air balloon,
with no danger of being blown away.
The two highlights of the event, however, are the fly-in and the Balloon
Glow. Both take place on Friday. In the morning, all the balloons do a fly-in
to the airport grounds at once. A solid mass of parti-colored balloons suddenly
appears over the horizon. Moving gracefully at varying altitudes toward the landing
zone, they suddenly drop in, one by one, until all are on the ground. All these
balloons-as many as 30 of them-will be anchored to the ground later that night.
At dark, on a signal from the master of ceremonies, they all kick off their gas
jets and the balloons light up from the inside, making their colors glow. Sometimes
they all glow at once. Other times the lights bounce on and off, from one craft
to another, in a spectacular dance of light and color.
There’s a lot more going on at the festival besides the balloons. Carnival
rides and concessions are available both days. And there will be a live music
concert Saturday night. The grand finale is the annual “Garden Party & Rat
Killin’,” a special dinner and dance under a big tent. Now in its 22nd year, the
Rat Killin’ is the social highlight for many Bowling Green residents and visitors.
If you’d like to attend, though, tickets must be purchased in advance.
Traveling by hot air balloon is probably the most graceful way to go. But
short of walking, it is likely the slowest. On the other end of the continuum
is traveling in a high-speed sports car. Among the best of that breed is the Corvette,
which is made in Bowling Green.
In its near 50-year history, the Corvette has become a national icon, celebrated
in movies, books, TV shows, and on the road. Plant tours are available, where
you can see exactly how “America’s only true sports car” is assembled.
For an even more in-depth look at the ‘Vette, visit the National Corvette
Museum, just down the road from the factory. In a super-modern 68,000-square-foot
exhibit hall, you can see antique Corvettes and prototypes that never made it
to the dealer. Also on display are rare memorabilia and collectibles from the
showrooms and movies of the ’50s and ’60s. An interpretive film telling the story
of the Corvette airs on a continuous basis in the Chevrolet Theater as well.
Although many of us will never get to travel in a ‘Vette, or any other
race car, you can simulate the experience at one of Bowling Green’s newest attractions.
At Raceworld, Spivey Williams has built a very special go-cart track. Instead
of the typical vehicles found on such tracks, NASCAR racers built to one-third
scale are used. There are two runs available, the oval track and the road track.
Of particular note is the disability-accessible car that Williams built. Raceworld
is the only go-cart track in the country with such a vehicle. This makes the fun
of running a “Naskart” available to folks with disabilities, even those confined
This specially designed Naskart reflects Williams’ community mindedness.
Another of his community-minded projects is the Safety City program conducted
at Raceworld. This is a special driver-education course made available to students
at Bowling Green High School, where they learn the fine points of driving safely.
But mostly, Raceworld is plain fun for the whole family, and well worth
a visit while you attend the Balloon Classic.
For complete details of the Balloon Classic and other Bowling Green attractions,
contact: Bowling Green-Warren County Tourist Commission, 352 Three Springs Road,
Bowling Green, KY 42104, (270) 782-0800.
Day Trips & Short Stops
South Union Shakers
Just about everybody knows of the Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill, near
Harrodsburg. Less well-known, however, is the other Shaker community, which existed
in South Union.
For more than a hundred years, in fact, South Union was home to a flourishing
Shaker community. A communal, celibate, religious organization, Shakers embraced
the ideals of simplicity, communal property, and hard work. The legacy they left
behind can be seen at the Shaker Museum.
Your visit begins at the 1824 Centre House. Once home to more than 300
members, the 40-room house is filled with original artifacts, including oval boxes,
baskets, furniture, and furnishings.
The South Union society was established in 1807. In the years before it
disbanded in 1922, the Shakers acquired 6,000 acres of land; constructed more
than 200 buildings (only three remain today); grew, packaged, and sold garden
seed and fruit preserves; and were known worldwide for their production and manufacture
of handmade silk.
Tour guides provide an orientation in the front hall of the Centre House,
explaining how men and women lived separately-men in rooms on one side of the
house, women on the other, each with their own stairway; how each member worked
at a craft or discipline; how new members were recruited; and how the society
dealt with the outside world. The rest of the tour is self-guided.
You’ll see rooms set up to demonstrate a variety of Shaker crafts and activities
that would have originally been done at the buildings scattered around the property.
The displays will give you a glimpse into the lifestyle and industry practiced
by the community.
Make your way directly to the fourth floor and begin your visit there,
wandering through the second and third floors, and ending in the basement. Along
the way you’ll see schoolrooms; sleeping quarters that range from the simple to
the ornate; sewing, laundry, woodworking, broom making, preserving, and other
crafts rooms; a kitchen area; and the dining room-all filled with original Shaker
furnishings and artifacts.
The Museum Shop offers a selection of Shaker books and reproductions, including
handmade oval boxes, baskets, tinware, brooms, and herbs.
For additional information, contact: Shaker Museum, P.O. Box 30, South
Union, KY 42283, (270) 542-4167.
Native Brook Trout
Kentucky isn’t particularly known as a trout state, especially when wild
trout are the subject. Yet there are more than 50 trout streams flowing through
the Commonwealth. True, these are primarily stocked waters.
But there are at least six streams where naturally reproducing brook trout
survive. All six are found in the Daniel Boone National Forest. And all six require
some effort to reach. But the trip is well worthwhile.
Take Parched Corn Creek, for instance, our favorite. You reach it from
the Parched Corn parking lot, in Red River Gorge. At the far end of the lot is
the trailhead. But don’t expect a beaten-down trail. Far from it. Much of the
trail is overgrown. Fallen trees block parts of it. In many respects, you may
as well be hiking cross-country.
After descending several hundred feet, you reach the creek. It isn’t much
of a stream, though. You can cross it in two or three long strides just about
anywhere. And the banks are generally overgrown so, sometimes, you can’t even
find the water.
Not giant fish, you understand. A 10-incher is a trophy in a headwater
stream like Parched Corn. But you won’t see too many other anglers willing to
make the trek. So you’ll have, most of the time, a wilderness fishing experience
all to yourself.
Best way to fish it is with a lightweight flyrod, overloaded by at least
one size. That is, if you’re using a three-weight outfit, put a #4 line on it.
You won’t be casting so much as lobbing the fly, on a short line. Ten feet is
a long way to cast.
The stream is infertile, and the brookies hit targets of opportunity. So
fly choice isn’t critical. Terrestrials almost always work, as do larger dry flies.
Just flick them to likely cover, and let them float drag-free back toward you.
For more information, contact: Stanton District Office, Daniel Boone National
Forest, 705 West College Avenue, Stanton, KY 40380, (606) 663-2852.