Photography Provided by Michiana Balloon Rides & Jayme Goetz
“Are you looking for a new adventure?” asks Brian Kunze, owner of Michiana Balloon Rides. “Typically, we don’t feel motion at all. Since we are moving with the wind, passengers feel weightless, as if they are standing on air.”
Kunze speaks from years of experience. He was only five years old when a friend’s father bought a hot air balloon. Kunze and his own father became part of the ground crew— the team that chases and retrieves the balloon and its occupants.
“My dad liked it so much, he bought his own,” Kunze says. “He found Dave Bobel in Rochester that taught us both to fly. Later, I bought my first balloon and started Michiana Balloon Rides.”
Rides launch out of Centennial Park in Plymouth, Culver, and homes of those in Marshall County and are scheduled at sunrise or two hours before sunset. The“Share the Fun” option costs $225 per person up to four people. A private ride accommodates up to four passengers and ranges from $649 for two people to $849 for four.
Each experience takes around three hours and includes set-up, the flight and an ending toast ceremony where the history of flying is shared. Participants are encouraged to invite family and friends to send them off at the beginning of their adventure, or to beat the park when they return. Participants can also have their families follow along as part of the “chase” if they would like.
“We monitor the weather very closely and fly only in the early morning or the end of the day because typically, that’s when the wind is the best for ballooning,” Kunze adds. “A highlight video is included in the price of the ride, but we also offer a video that includes every single thing from start to finish for an additional $49.”
Michiana Balloon Rides will also rent out balloons for tethered rides at festivals, company picnics or parties. This is a more affordable way to ride in a hot air balloon taking four guests at a time up and back down in the balloon. Approximately 120 to 140 guests can ride in the balloon in two hours. The balloon is tied to the ground, and it goes up 50 to 60 feet. Those interested in a tether ride can contact Michiana Balloon Rides or visit their Facebook page for more information on where they will be tethering.
“People often ask what they should wear on the balloon rides,” he says. “We tell them to dress for conditions on the ground. It gets three degrees colder for every thousand feet up in the air. We usually go up 2 to 3,000 feet and travel about four or five miles an hour, so it’s not that much of a difference than being on the ground.
“This is definitely a ‘bucket list’ activity for a lot of people,” Kunze adds. “We have about five to 10 flights each year where someone gets engaged. It’s actually more fun for me to share the experience with people than riding solo. The wind might take us to Culver and over Lake Maxinkuckee, then we skim the tops of the corn fields and the surface of the lake. This is something not everyone gets the chance to do.”
For information on flights and booking visit MichianaBalloonRides.com or give them a call at 574-780-4560. You can also visit them on Facebook at Michiana Balloon Rides LLC.