REMEMBER THIS ?    Helen's 1st balloon ascent.

This is the front cover of the Spring 1974 "Higlands & Islands".  This is a photograph of the very first balloon to ever be inflated in Helen.  It was fall of 1973.  The balloon was a Stokes.  It was owned and piloted by Ron Livley.
The following article appeared inside:

  photo by Bernd Nagy

Ballooning Comes To Alpine Helen

 Helen, Georgia, is always a delightful  surprise,  even to those who have traveled the North Georgia area many years. It is a bit of the European Alps, architecture and all, transported to a magnificent mountain-surrounded valley in North Georgia. There are shops, and  eating places, a summer theater ... things totally unique to the area.

And there's always, repeat always, something going on.

At Easter expect an Easter Egg hunt. In June, expect a trout fishing festival.  Weekends, expect a street dance.   In September, expect an Oktoberfest (we'll let you figure the logic of that).  In fall, expect a leaf festival. Later this year, you should be able to play the new Gary Player designed golf course which is currently under construction.

But this year, during the entire month of May, the little town has come up with something totally unique to the entire region . . . they claim it is unique to the entire world, and they just may be right.

They will hold the Helen-Atlantic National Balloon Race . . . believed to be the only long-distance balloon race in the world. More than 30 entries are expected and there is a possibility of 50.

The first and second weeks of May will feature practice, trials and balloon demonstrations, then the third week the contestants will begin to get serious.

There will be "hare and hound" races, in which the hare balloon goes up and is chased by the hound balloons. When the hare balloon lands, the hound balloons try to land as close as possible.

There will be leaf gathering events, in which balloonists swoop down and try to pick the largest variety of leaves from treetops.

And there will be time and distance races, in which the balloons try to go as far as possible from the starting point in a given period of time.

Then the big race will start the fourth week in May. It will start at the "center of the world" (that's Helen) and the finish line will be at "the edge of the earth", the Atlantic Ocean anywhere between New York and Miami. Officials explained that balloons can only be controlled in two directions, up and down, so the direction a balloon takes is totally dependent upon the wind, and thus the length of the finish line.

Normally, a balloon will stay up about four hours, and balloon pilots are followed by an entourage of friends who refuel the balloon and send it back up again to continue its journey. It is possible, under the right conditions, to reach the Atlantic in two days. To qualify for the championship, a balloon must reach the finish line within seven days.

Helen is less than a half-tank of gas from Atlanta for the average car, and there are several places to stay.

****The "highlands & islands DIRECTORY" was published in the mid 1970's.  The editor and publisher was long time North Georgia advocate Mr. Gordon Sawyer.  The contributing editor was long time Helen friend, Ms. Alma Bowen.****

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