Horses, a fire engine, candy, and—oh, yeah—balloons, too


You might think we’d go to a hot air balloon festival and come home talking about the hot air balloons.

Our boys came home from the SARC Hot Air Balloon Festival raving about horses and fire engines.

Still, if you’ve ever known preschool-aged boys, you can probably understand. It’s not that the boys weren’t absolutely thrilled about the idea of seeing hot air balloons. But when we got to the festival yesterday and the balloons weren’t full of air, neither one of the boys cared.

After all, there was plenty to see and do and experience even without the balloons.

There were Clydesdales to ride.

Leo was excited to climb aboard the tallest horse he had ever seen.

“It was 11 feet tall,” he told me later. And it may have been.

There were mascots to meet—and even Daniel summoned up the courage to shake hands with the two costumed mascots we encountered. His father and I were astonished.

There were games to play. (Here Leo is trying to launch a fake foot into a picture of a shark’s mouth.)

And there was a fire engine.

When we saw it pulling in, Daniel could hardly believe his good luck.

When he found out he was allowed to climb on the fire engine, touch the ladder and hoses, and do a full inspection of one of his favorite vehicles, he was thrilled.

He climbed. He rang the bell on the front. When Leo announced he was climbing inside the dark, spooky engine, Daniel followed.

When a teenaged cadet stopped to talk to him and tell him about the fire engine, Daniel tugged at his own shirt to show off the fire engine on the front. It might seem coincidental that he was wearing a fire engine shirt, but Daniel insists on wearing shirts with fire engines on them—unless there is no other option available.

He shook the hand of a real, live firefighter, who asked him his name, and he told him—proudly and clearly.

Then he looked at firefighters who were all dressed up in their gear.

It was a big day.

Oh, and the boys got to see the hot air balloon baskets up close.

They even saw a balloon sitting there, just waiting to be inflated.

But the boys were so excited by everything else at the festival—the live music, the free goodies at every turn, even a lollipop tree—that I can’t imagine how they would have reacted if we had actually seen the balloons rise into the air.

Even though our boys were getting tired and we had to head out without seein any actual hot air balloons were in the sky, we couldn’t leave without stopping for a balloon from the balloon artist.

We had seen a lovely balloon shaped like a pink and white flower on the wrist of one little girl.

But our sons? They wanted balloon guns. And they loved watching the artist create them. Then they carried them happily to the car.

We may not have seen a hot air balloon rise into the air. But I can’t imagine how much higher the boys’ spirits could have soared.


Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.