Pilots Wayne and Debby Standefer met in 1998 at the Plano Balloon Festival.
The couple married one year ago and moved to Ovilla, bringing with them the largest fleet of balloons and the largest balloons in the state of Texas. They’ve also made Mid-Way Regional Airport the home of the first Summer Balloon Classic, which will take place June 20-22.
Debby, who has organized balloon festivals in the D/FW Metroplex and in Denver, has chosen Mid-Way, which is located U.S. Highway 287 Bypass between Waxahachie and Midlothian, as the location for what she describes as an “aviation extravaganza.”
“Balloon festivals are some of the most popular events in the United States and I am proud that our city has been chosen to be a host,” Waxahachie Convention and Visitors Bureau director Laurie McPike Mosley said.
“Balloons fly early in the morning and later in the afternoon,” Debby said, noting there will be four separate hot air balloon launches during the event.
Continuous aviation entertainment throughout the day will feature a variety of aircraft, including gliders, helicopters, fixed wing, jets and military aircraft. Entertainment will include skydivers, flyovers, static displays and demonstrations. Some flights will be available to the public.
“Just at sunset on Saturday evening, the area will be filled with the balloons on static display to light up the evening sky with a spectacular glow of color,” said Debby of the “Lites in the Nite” balloon glow.
“One of the things that I’m really excited about is that this particular event is going to have nationally-sanctioned competition,” Debby said, explaining that the contests will be sanctioned by the Balloon Federation of America.
“We’ll get top-ranked competitors to come to the event. A lot of festivals may have fun flying and fun competitions, but this is serious stuff. These guys will come from across the country to compete in challenging tasks for points to qualify for the national and world competitions and for prize money,” she said.
Other attractions include exhibits and displays of food, arts and crafts, education and more. There will also be a children’s area with free activities.
“The whole premise behind the event is to encourage young adults to get involved in aviation,” Debby said.
Debby has been a hot air balloon pilot since 1989 and husband Wayne has been flying since the age of 14.
Wayne, who flies airplanes and helicopters in addition to hot air balloons, received his first pilot’s license at the age of 17.
The Standefers have a fleet of 18 balloons, the largest of which is 160,000 cubic feet and has the capacity to carry eight people.
“An average-size balloon is probably 77,000 cubic feet,” Debby said, comparing that average with the size of their largest balloon.
Through their business, Wayne’s Air Toys, the two offer hot air balloon rides and pilot lessons.
Admission to the Summer Balloon Classic is free, but there is a $5 fee for parking. Curves International and ReMax of Texas are the event’s major sponsors.
For more information about Summer Balloon Classic, visit ww.summerballoonclassic.com For more information about Wayne’s Air Toys, visit www.waynesairtoys.com
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