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April 16, 2007 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2007-04-16

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

8A - Monday, April 16, 2007


The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com


Rf th artork. seng a asteaver, sea
of the artwork. Ascending a stepladder, she

" .. y
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ves the ria ttan carei ily acK anaGorl n acossLhe a si03 i etU31C. KIUM t: (Gin ay tGUiC i Csposle forC U n na unl g the Cun lit
ecarefully traces artwork from a projection onto the balloon surface.

By Angela Cesere I Managing Photo Editor

L ining the walls of Camer-
on Balloons in Dexter are
at least a hundred photos
of hot air balloons with vary-
ing colors, patterns, shapes
and sizes. Seemingly simple
looking, the process of making
hot-air balloons is complex and
time consuming.
One of the most important
parts of the hot air balloon
is neither the hot air nor the
balloon - it's the basket. Bas-
kets are given the same care
and attention that the balloon
"Every balloon and basket
gets a production card that
explains the different colors,
the size of the basket," said Paul
Petrehn, an account represen-
tative at Cameron. "It's kind of
like a birth certificate"
Before the weaving begins,
an assemble form - a sturdy
wood and metal structure
- ensures that the basket is the
right size and shape and holds
its form. The baskets at Cam-
eron are made with Indonesian
rattan, a vine-like palm plant
resembling bamboo. The rattan
is made pliable enough to weave
with an overnightwater-soak.
Every one of the dozens of
panels it takes to construct the
envelope, also known as the
balloon, are carefully mapped
out and labeled. The envelope is
assembled panel by panel, sewn

by a team of dedicated workers.
The sewers are surrounded on
all sides by pieces of brightly
colored fabric, sometimes with
hints of artwork or a brand
name that is readable when the
panel puzzle iscomplete.
Rigging occurs after the last
stitch is completed on the enve-
lope. When enough floor space
the entire envelope is stretched
out to its full length across the
floor. After being hooked to pul-
leys connected to the expansive
roof of the building, the balloon
is slowly inflated with two fans
on either side.
At 9 a.m. on a Tuesday morn-
ing last month, the balloon is
just about inflated enough to
start rigging. After the top of
the envelope is inflated enough
to walk in, Debbie Branch, the
supervisor for the sewing and
art department, spreads out the
parachute inside of the balloon.
She carefully starts attaching
the parachute to the inside of
the balloon.
The purpose of the para-
chute is to regulate how much
hot air is trapped in the bal-
loon, allowing the balloon to
change elevation by lower-
ing and raising the parachute
with the rigging. By the time
the rigging is finished, ropes
will be running down the
entire length of the balloon,
ready for the last step before it
is sent off to its owners.

Weather is checked repeat-
edly and calls are exchanged
before a test inflation of three
balloons can be confirmed for
a frosty April morning. Not
exactly ideal conditions for
a test inflation outside Cam-
eron's building, but with the
winds steadily below 10 m.p.h.
and the merciful lack of snow,
it is " opportunity not to be
missed. Customers are anx-
iously awaiting their balloons
as the warm spring weather
approaches, eager to get their
feet off the ground and into a
For one person, 210,000 sq.
ft. of balloon is too much to
handle alone. A group of five
work together to make the
inflation process go smoothly.
Balloons are inflated one at a
time. The envelope is spread
out to its full length on a tarp
to avoid getting it dirty. Ropes
from the envelope are attached
to the basket with heavy-duty
carabineers. A 9 horse-power
inflation fan is turned on and
pointed toward the mouth of
the balloon. Great waves of
air travel across the balloon
as it inflates with a surprising
amount of speed.
The burner is turned on.
Gradually the balloon lifts off
the ground until the basketcan
sit upright with the balloon
above it. Fully inflated, the
rigging is checked. Pending a
few adjustments, the balloon is
ready to be sent.to its owner.

ABOVE: Cameron Balloons owner Andrew Baird and Debbie Branch, supervisor for the sewing and art department, in the partially inflated
balloon to do a general check and make sure the balloon is ready for hot air. RIGHT: Branch sews part of a green alien balloon together while
retired Cameron employiee Phyllis Bennett watches.


ABOVE: Baird and Paul Petrehn, an account representative at Cameron, bunch together the balloon to squeeze out
the air so that it can be packed up. RIGHT: With the basket attached by rope to two vans, Petrehn inflates the bal-
loon enough to get ita few feet off the ground. While the balloon is inflated, rigging can be tested and stitching and
be checked for flaws.

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