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Hudson Hot Air Affair = Family affair for many

Michelle Webb, Linda White, Brian Scheel and Taylor Scheel are three generations of Hudson Hot Air Affair volunteers. This photo was taken in the early 2000s. Photo courtesy of Evy Nerbonne 1 / 4
Longtime Hudson Hot Air Affair volunteers Carla Timmerman and Evy Nerbonne with jester hats for the Renaissance theme in 2004. Photo courtesy of Evy Nerbonne 2 / 4
Megan Conover Bolduc and Brittany Schultz selling raffle tickets in the mid-1990s for Hudson Hot Air Affair. Photo courtesy of Evy Nerbonne 3 / 4
This photo of longtime Hudson Hot Air Affair volunteers was taken in the mid-1990s: Matt Jordan, Ruth Peterson, Gladys Peterson, Brittany Schultz, Evonne Jordan, “Launchfield Larry” Swistoski and Linda White at the Torchlight Parade. Photo courtesy of Evy Nerbonne4 / 4

Thirty years after the first balloon launched during the Hudson Hot Air Affair, many of the celebration's founding members are still active — as are many of their family members from both their own generation and those before and after them.

Carla Timmerman was recruited by her friend Evy Nerbonne, one of the founders of the event which was created after the Chamber-sponsored Cabin Fever Days ended.

"Since we started 30 years ago, I have never suffered from winter doldrums or cabin fever," Timmerman said. "One question we are asked is why in the winter? The answer is: Anybody could do this in the summer. We choose the winter!"

And Timmerman's family has kept busy during the winters since 1990 as well:

• Husband Richard assists with activities/events functions.

• Mother Mary Jackman and her sister Helen McKenzie helped with mailings.

• Sister Marcia Edwards (from East Bethel, Minn.) assisted year-round with promotions and during HHAA weekend.

• Son Andy Martin helps crew balloons HHAA weekend, daughter-in-law Audrey is an artist for HHAA painted pictures and granddaughters Brooke and Autumn help with the Torchlight Parade.

• Daughter Jody Connors was a school programs assistant and son-in-law Chris was a craft fair participant.

Of course, Nerbonne's family also has deep roots in the celebration.

"The Hot Air Affair became part of the family culture from the beginning 30 years ago," Nerbonne said. "My parents were hot air balloon enthusiasts, my mother (Gladys Peterson) and sisters were active committee participants in the beginning and ever since, plus my brother Leroy has crewed for many years. The next two generations were just born into it — kids and grandkids helping at the event or grandkids marching in Hot Air Affair units in parades."

Nerbonne's sisters remain actively involved with the event even though they don't all live nearby. Ruth Peterson is the event logistics/launch field coordinator and a year-round volunteer. Evonne Jordan flies in from Las Vegas for the event and does year-round promotion. Carol Ganz from Indianapolis (crew chief for first balloonmeister Rose Eakins in 1990) serves as a launch director.

The third HHAA co-founder is not only still involved herself (and has recruited husband Bob White to help with events), but she has also brought additional generations into the mix: Linda White's daughter Michelle Webb coordinates school activities and merchandise for HHAA and her son Brian Scheel helps crew balloons and works launch field duties along with grandchildren Taylor and Kyler helping with projects and participating in off-season parades.

"My greatest joy was flying in a balloon the first time," White said. "Since then I jump at the chance to fly in a balloon. Another highlight—I got to cut the tie-down rope when we did the smoke balloon demonstration in 1998 for the Wisconsin Sesquicentennial."

The balloons can't fly without the pilots — and that's another area that has included multiple


• Cool Family: Grandfather Richard Cool Sr. participated in the first Hot Air Affair in 1990 and owned Stillwater Balloons; father Richard Cool Jr. participated in Hot Air Affair as a pilot; and now Josh Cool is a committee member and hot air balloon owner. (Josh's Aunt Missy Cool Junker has flown his balloon in recent Hot Air Affair events.)

• Two generation families:

• Riehle: Father Pete, a long time Hot Air Affair pilot and previous balloonmeister and son Jake, first time pilot participant in HHAA in 2019.

• Hendrickson: Father Terry, pilot of International Peace Garden Balloon from Dunseith, N. D. and daughter Sonja Belgarde, another first-time pilot participant in HHAA in 2019.

• Reuter: Father Dan, a pilot at HHAA in early years and daughter Bethany, in her second year as a pilot at HHAA.

"The committee and pilots have truly become a second family," Timmerman said. "We have attended each other's life events including weddings, graduations and family funerals. There is a comradery with us that keeps us working together as we plan the yearly event and participate with the community in celebration."

Some of those who celebrate come from outside the community — especially the pilots who, since the beginning, have been housed at the (now) Hudson House Grand Hotel.

"Hot Air Affair has always been a part of my life, as my family has owned and operated the Hudson House Grand Hotel since 1976, making it impossible to not be involved in such a fun winter event for Hudson," said Brittany Schultz, now in her early 30s. "The hotel has been the host location for the event since Day One, providing lodging for pilots and their crew, holding events during the Hot Air Affair weekend and storing many of the merchandise and materials that are used for the event year-round."

Schultz's grandfather Harold was the owner of the Hudson House Inn 30 years ago when the first Hot Air Affair was held at the property. The hotel welcomed committee, pilots, crews and has worked with the event ever since. Her father and mother—Stu Schultz and Cyndee Lindgren — offered the committee space for storage in the building that now serves as the event headquarters year-round.

"I started getting more involved and volunteering around the age of 10, when I was asked to help sell tickets for the quilt raffle. For some reason, kids could always get those tickets sold," Schultz said.

"It is such an enjoyment to see all the families that make their way out to see all of these gorgeous balloons. Whether they fly or not, it is definitely a sight you don't want to miss. I definitely consider myself a lifer with the annual Hudson Hot Air Affair event."