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Meteorologist signs on to emcee Festival of Balloons

Dave Sweeney will report to Tigard for hot-air balloon launches


by: COURTESY OF ALVARO FONTAN - Balloons lift off early Saturday morning, June 21, during Tigard's annual Festival of the Balloons.A platoon of hot-air balloons took to the skies Saturday morining during Tigard's Festival of Balloons, which kicked off bright and early Friday morning.

(Image is Clickable Link) Photos by Jaime Valdez - Check out the slideshow by clicking on this photoThe annual community celebration relies on nice weather for people to enjoy the rides, booths and — of course — the morning balloon launches and has enlisted the help of a local meteorologist to ensure the sun shines throughout the weekend.

Dave Sweeney, the former chief meteorologist for KOIN 6 News, is emceeing the weekend's morning balloon launches and festivities, which continue through Sunday. Sweeney, who lives in Sherwood, has years of experience working with hot-air balloon rallies, but has never attended Tigard’s morning balloon launches.

Tigard’s Festival of Balloons

Where: Cook Park, 17005 S.W. 92nd Ave.

When: Friday, Saturday and Sunday

Hours: Balloons launch at 5:45 a.m., with rides, live music and other events throughout the day and into the evening.

How Much: $5 gate admission

Tickets: Visit tigardballoon.org

Parking: $5 at Tigard High School Swim Center, 8680 S.W. Durham Road

“I’ve never been to the Tigard festival before, I’ve always missed it,” he said. “The one time I was able to go, it was so popular I couldn’t find a place to park and had to go home.”

Sweeney has a soft spot for balloons. In the TV business, where weathermen often move from market to market, Sweeney would make sure to find a local hot-air balloon festival that he could participate in, usually as an emcee.

“Balloons are one of those things that I have always thought were cool and wanted to do,” Sweeney said. “I had it on my bucket list that I wanted to take a hot-air balloon ride.”

Sweeney will be on site starting at about 5 a.m., getting ready for the morning balloon launches, which begin at 5:45.

Love of the sport

SweeneySweeney's passion for the sport, and his respect for pilots, is obvious.

“It’s so cool to fly,” Sweeney said. “When you’re up there, the only way you know the winds are shifting is to feel it on your face. Then, you just go along with the breeze. When we’re just drifting, I like to sit on the edge of the basket, hold on and just watch. It's very peaceful.”

Sweeney has emceed hot-air balloon rallies in Lewiston, Idaho; Eugene; Washington, D.C.; Colorado and has been the emcee for many years at Albany’s Northwest Art and Air Festival each summer.

“This one time, I was flying with a guy in Colorado, and a buddy of his was staying in a nearby condo. We flew the balloon over and floated about three stories up, right outside his back patio, and just sat there and carried on a conversation,” he said. “It was so cool.”

When Sweeney first moved to Portland in the early 2000s, he offered to emcee the Tigard festival, but said it never worked out, until now.

by: COURTESY OF ALVARO FONTAN - Balloons in Tigard's Cook Park filled with hot air early Saturday morning, June 21, in preparation for takeoff.Despite his admiration of the sport, Sweeney said his talents are best served on the ground as an emcee and weatherman, and not as a pilot.

“(Owning a balloon) is way too much work,” he said, laughing.

Tigard’s festival is smaller than other festivals Sweeney has hosted in Albany and Colorado, but whether it’s five or 50 balloons, Sweeney said, balloon rallies are a ton of fun.

“I love it,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

Hot-air balloons need calm wilds and mild weather to fly. Too much wind or rain and the festival will scrap the morning launch, Sweeney said.

This weekend’s forecast? Sunny and bright.

Want to take a hot-balloon ride yourself? Pilots won't be taking anyone up with them during the morning launches, but the festival will be offering free tethered rides each morning, beginning at 6:15.

by: COURTESY OF ALVARO FONTAN - Saturday morning's calm weather aided balloon pilots during their flight from Tigard's Cook Park.