53 foot tall American flag hot air balloon to fly over Red Oak
The world’s largest free flying American flag hot air balloon, weighing 530 pounds and standing 53 feet tall, is coming to Red Oak over Memorial Day weekend.
The five-story-tall “America One” balloon is owned and operated by Barry and Teri DeLibero of Chester Springs, Penn. It is 78 feet wide and requires 30 BTUs of propane to be fully inflated. It is scheduled to fly over Red Oak’s Evergreen Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 30.
“We are very proud and very happy to be able to do this,” said DeLibero.
DeLibero explained it was after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks when he, a hot air balloon pilot, and his wife, Teri, decided to have a special balloon made in the shape of the American Flag. The flag balloon was finished in May 2002 and has been making appearances all over the United States since.
But this is the first time the balloon will be on display in the Midwest, said DeLibero.
“We have been as far west as Las Vegas and have spent a lot of time along the east coast, but never in the center of the country.”
DeLibero said Red Oak native Bill Williams contacted him around July 4 of last year about bringing the balloon to a Memorial Day weekend event in Omaha. Since the balloon would already be in the area, maybe it could also make an appearance in Red Oak.
“Bill explained to me that Red Oak continues to have true respect for Memorial Day and all it stands for,” said DeLibero.
Sponsoring the balloon in Red Oak are the Montgomery County Veterans Memorial Court of Honor, V.F.W. Post #2265 and American Legion Post #67.
“We hope the weather is coducive to launching the balloon flag,” commented Larry Barnett, member of the Montgomery County Court of Honor.
DeLibero said countless hours of legwork have already been completed for the trip to Red Oak, utilizng GoogleEarth, such as looking for the best places to launch the balloon, avoiding towers, and making sure they won’t be in restricted airspace. The rest will be done once they arrive in town.
He said the balloon will be positioned in one of three places near Evergreen Cemetery and will take flight around sunrise.
“In Red Oak, it is going to be tricky because the wind comes down off the plains and there is nothing stopping it. With the balloon being 78 feet wide, it catches a lot of wind,” DeLibero explained. “It doesn’t go anywhere fast, but once it’s moving it is hard to stop. You don’t want the balloon to act like a giant sail.”
If the wind is above six to seven miles per hour, or 4 knots, it can’t take flight.
If the weather does cooperate and it does take flight, it can carry two or three passengers including the pilot. The best times for it to take flight is at sunrise and dusk, when the wind is technically at its least.
If unable to see the flag hovering over Red Oak, it will also be at Omaha’s Memorial Park Friday, May 27 at 7 p.m. Seven hot air balloons from Iowa and Nebraska will join “America One” for a balloon glow.
Williams’ Patriotic Productions is hosting the balloon glow and a patriotic parade May 26 and May 27 in Omaha’s Old Market. The Patriotic Parade and concert starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 28, and will honor Gold Star Family members and veterans.
The parade will began with Lee Greenwood singing the National Anthem at 12th & Jackson in downtown Omaha. The parade then moves east to 10th Street and turns south to The Durham Museum, where a Patriotic Concert will be held following the parade. The parade will include: U.S. Army’s Old Guard Fife & Drum Corps, Ft, Riley Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard Inflatable Purple Heart Balloon George & Martha Washington/Abe & Mary Lincoln, real cowboys, Jenson Shires (Draft Horses) and many others.
The free patriotic concert includes Lee Greenwood singing “God Bless the USA,” Camille Metoyer-Moten performing “American Anthem,” the Omaha Symphonic Chorus and Grateful Heart singing selections of patriotic music. Master of Ceremonies is Hal Daub, Army Veteran, former Omaha Mayor and U.S. Congressman. Additionally, the national memorial - Remembering Our Fallen – will be located in the north parking lot of The Durham Museum. Free food will be provided as well, while it lasts.