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Ballooning company looks to take off in Prairie Grove

Published: Friday, Aug. 30, 2013 11:33 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Aug. 30, 2013 11:38 p.m. CDT

PRAIRIE GROVE – The park next to the Prairie Grove Village Hall may be the newest launch site for a red-, yellow-, orange- and blue-striped hot-air balloon.

The balloon, which stands 85 feet tall and 55 feet wide, is owned by Glenn O’Connell, Sedona Sunset Ballooning’s owner and pilot.

He has asked the Prairie Grove Village Board for permission to use the park as a launch site, and at its meeting this week, the board agreed to have the village administrator and attorney draw up a permit.

In exchange for the permission, O’Connell has offered to bring the balloon to village events free of charge.

He’d help the kids inflate the balloon and teach them the history and science of ballooning, he said.

“It’s going to be a feel good,” Village Administrator Jeannine Smith said. “We hope people embrace it as much as the board and attendees did.”

While O’Connell has two launch sites in Cary, both privately owned, he started looking for another after he lost the ability to launch from The Fountains at Crystal Lake because of its expansion, he said.

“It’s always good to have more because of wind direction,” he said.

O’Connell has been ballooning for more than 35 years, he said, and about a year ago, he started a small company on the side to handle passengers.

“For me, it’s a stress reliever,” he said. “I like to go fly and I like to share my experience. ... It’s 360 degrees once you get past the tree line.”

“There’s no wings to see past. It’s a cool way to see the area.”

The ballooning season runs May through October, and O’Connell usually can get in about 40 flights a year, he said. Rain and wind cut into the flights he was able to do this year.

He does sunrise and sunset flights, and he is completely self-contained, he said. The passengers arrive at the site in his van, and so there is no issue with parking.

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