Bill Harrop's Dinosaur Balloon Derby 19 Nov 2022

By Willie Bodenstein


When an invite like this arrives in your inbox there is no way that you can so no: You are invited to the Dinosaur Derby at Bill Harrop's on Saturday 19 November at 3PM in celebration of the Montgolfier day that celebrates the first flight of a balloon that took place in France 239 years ago on 21 November 1783.

The French brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier developed a hot-air balloon in Annonay, Ardeche, France, and demonstrated it publicly on 19 September 1783, making an unmanned flight lasting 10 minutes. After experimenting with unmanned balloons and flights with animals, the first balloon flight with humans aboard, a tethered flight, performed on or around 15 October 1783, by Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier, who made at least one tethered flight from the yard of the Reveillon workshop.

Later that same day, Pilatre de Rozier became the second human to ascend into the air, reaching an altitude of 26 m (85 ft), the length of the tether. The first free flight with human passengers was made a few weeks later, on 21 November 1783. King Louis XVI had originally decreed that condemned criminals would be the first pilots, but de Rozier, along with Marquis François d'Arlandes, petitioned successfully for the honour.

The derby at Bill Harrop's started with a Spit braai. The spit braai and entertainment were free but invited guest were asked to please RSVP for catering purposes.

Then the fun began with a flap inflation of one of the dinosaur balloons, a one-person hopper, ably demonstrated by a very brave but also very capable Tracy Rob, Chief Pilot and co-owner of Bill Harrops.

The rest of the balloon dinosaurs then all gradually inflated for a night glow. There were balloons that I have never seen in real life and others that one had forgotten about - a real trip down memory lane. Among the fifteen that grazed the late afternoon sky were: - Pick & Pay Hyper Markets, Old Smuggler Whisky, Guinness Goblet, Liquorice All Sorts, Safari Sunrise, Bill's original, Gold Reef City balloon, Guinness, Simba, Sasol and more.

The day's participating pilots, longest serving in front leading to the newest in the last row.

Fittingly the doyen of ballooning in South African and whose handywork were some of the legendary balloons on display was Terry Adams. When Terry Adams emigrated to South Africa, he brought with him the last production Western Balloon. Once settled he started Flamboyant Balloons and he entered his Flamboyant in the '81 Worlds, in Battle Creek, Michigan.

In fact, a total of fifteen historical balloons eventually grazed the immaculate grounds at Bill Harrop's. I'm sure Bill and Mary looked down at the spectacular sight and smiled contently knowing that their legacy is in good hands.

Bill Harrop's can be contacted at:
Telephone: +27 83 457 3402
Mobile: +27 83 443 2661
Field Operations: +27 83 776 5875

Bill Harrop's Dinosaur Balloon Derby 2022

Events 2022

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