52 hot-air balloons are participating in this year's event, including the 'Dream Ship' featuring drawings done by 130 children of fallen and disabled soldiers.

JACKSON TWP.  Last year, the first leg of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Festival Balloon Classic was decimated by a ferocious rainstorm.

No such misfortune this year.

Early Friday, low-lying morning fog and gray patches of clouds gave way to blue skies and sun as balloons were inflated and launched.

Collyn Floyd, director of marketing for the Greater Canton Chamber of Commerce, said 52 hot-air balloons are participating in this year's event, which continues at 6:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday on the grounds of Kent State at Stark campus.

Beth Davidson, a pilot from Canton, has participated the Classic every year since it started, adding that she's been flying for 42 years.

Her balloon is the "Zig Zag." 

"I was living in Colorado in the 1970s where it's a popular sport," Davidson said. "I was totally amazed by it. I've been hooked ever since."

Another participant is "The DreamShip," sponsored by the Rite Aid Foundation and Folds of Honor.

It's illustrated with drawings done by 130 children of fallen and disabled soldiers, who also are scholarship recipients, said Katherine "Katie" Moldovan, a Regional Health Care Leader at Rite Aid.

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Moldovan noted that one of the drawings was done by a scholarship recipient who now is in medical school.

"It's so special because it shows what they want to be when they grow up," Moldovan said.

For "DreamShip" pilot Jason Myers, a Stow native who now lives outside Dallas, it was the first year participating in the Balloon Classic.

"I'm really honored to fly this balloon," he said to Canton Repository staffers, who were among media members flying on Friday morning.

The friendly and engaging Myers said he was introduced to the sport in 1981 by an uncle, who still serves on his ground crew. He has been licensed since 1994.

"There's something about ballooning," Myers said. "They were first in flight, 100 years before airplanes. It offers you a perspective you don't get any other way. There's just something serene about it."

As Myers guided his craft over Interstate 77, green trees, and houses, dogs barked as their owners waved "hello" from their yards and driveways. Among the landmarks that could be seen were the Hoover Co. chimney, Hoover High School's football stadium, several golf courses, and Walsh University.

At the end of the one-hour flight, Myers expertly guided the balloon over an open space in a new development near Bob-O-Link in North Canton. As it lowered to the ground, residents came outside to get an up-close look.

A perfect landing.

To see a full schedule of events visit www.cantonrep.com

Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or charita.goshay@cantonrep.com
On Twitter: @cgoshayREP