HUDSON -- When the founders of the Hudson Hot Air Affair think back to the inaugural event, one of the first things to come to mind is the weather.
It cooperated, something that hasn’t always happened in the 31 years since.
Back then they didn’t have access to Willow River Elementary, the event’s designated warming place now.
“I remember the visual of John Knutson standing in the back of my pickup truck selling T-shirts,” co-founder Evy Nerbonne said.
She still has the pickup, and she and Knutson, along with other founders Carol Timmerman and Linda White have been behind the effort ever since.
It originally started as a chamber event, but when the organization planned on ending it, the founders took over fully.
“We didn’t want it to die,” Nerbonne said.
They’ve added more activities beyond the balloon ascensions, from the parade and fireworks on Friday night to smooshboarding on Saturday afternoon.
Through the event they developed a Hot Air Affair family, attending each other’s wedding, funerals and more.
“We keep in touch throughout the year,” Timmerman said.
The organizational family also included their actual families as well, with spouses and kids pitching in and getting involved.
Now though, the founders are ready to step back.
“We’ve been talking about it for about 10 years,” Nerbonne said. “For any event to have longevity more than 30 years there needs to be new blood, new ideas, new energy.”
The leadership will be staying in the Hot Air Affair family, in more ways than one.
Michelle Webb, White’s daughter, will lead the board as president. The other new leaders include, AJ Hein as secretary and Richard and Sharon Young as treasurers, as well as Brittany Schultz and Lori Rayome.
Webb has been a part of the event for as long as she can remember, and became more involved as she got older. When they approached her about taking over, she agreed immediately.
“I’m a little scared, a little nervous, but excited at the same time,” Webb said.
Webb said her focus as president will be on continuing to grow the event as well membership.
“New faces bring new ideas,” she said.
She also hopes to continue the family tradition, getting her kids more involved as well.
“We start ‘em young,” Nerbonne said.
The founders are not fully leaving, instead they are now in a director role and will help the new leaders during the transition.
“I think there will always be a level of participation,” Timmerman said.
Nerbonne said with an organization like this, they have to grow the next generation into it and they’ll be there to help.
The biggest piece of advice from the founders is to ask for help when you need it, and to delegate some of the work. Most important, have fun with it.
“Definitely take the time to enjoy the event, too,” White said.
Looking back, the three have plenty of their own fun memories from over the years.
“I love seeing the excitement of the kids when they see the balloons inflating and their eyes get so big because they’re huge,” White said.
Timmerman enjoyed the different balloons themselves. She especially remembers the dinosaur that came one year and gave tether rides, suddenly floating up above the interstate.
For Nerbonne, some of the best memories came at other events. The founders would travel to different balloon rallies over the years, meeting pilots, dancing the Macarena in a beer warehouse and jumping fences to get to the launch field.
“It’s kind of bittersweet, changing over,” Timmerman said.
The 2020 Hudson Hot Air Affair is Feb. 7-9.