Inside the Basket - Dean Carlton, Balloon Fiesta pilot
Dean Carlton pilots the balloon CaZooee and has participated in Balloon Fiesta for many years, along with his son and his sister.
Take a look at this month’s Inside the Basket to see how he went from sponsoring a balloon, to piloting and teaching others about the sport.
1. Give a brief overview of your ballooning background and how you became a pilot.
Our family business sponsored a balloon at our local festival starting in the late ‘80s. We would crew for our pilot as a family, and truly enjoyed the interaction and excitement of ballooning. However, this activity was only one weekend out of the year, and if weather did not cooperate, we didn’t get to experience the fun often enough.
In 1997, my wife Angela and I decided we needed our own balloon, so I contacted the only balloon pilot in town. He provided instruction and with his advice we purchased a used balloon that had been built for the Milwaukee County Zoo. That balloon featured artwork consisting of zebras running around a hot pink balloon and had the word “ZOO” prominently displayed. When we brought it home and showed our kids, our then 7-year-old daughter Kelli proclaimed that this was for the “Carlton Zoo”, and we shortened the name to CaZoo.
2. What is the current balloon that you pilot and what is your favorite part about piloting that balloon?
In 2004 the kids designed a new balloon featuring a baby zebra face. He was named “CaZooee” to stay with the zoo theme. He is also mostly pink and has a zebra tail on the back side.
Kids (of all ages) love CaZooee, and he poses for lots of pictures. Landings in neighborhoods are great. Often everyone comes out to enjoy the balloon and the excitement it brings. CaZooee has flown in the United States and Canada, and has fun wherever he goes.
3.Your son and sister also have participatd in Balloon Fiesta. How did the three of you get involved and what is it like being able to experience this event with them?
Ballooning for us has always been a family activity. Our children don’t really remember not having a balloon and have travelled the country with us since they were small. Starting from the beginning our family members were always our crew, and that continues to this day.
I provided training for my sister Donna, and she now has flown in the US, Canada, Mexico, and even Italy. She is retired and spends some of her time sharing the joy of ballooning doing demonstrations at local schools and events.
My son Ryan started training when he was 16 and now pilots his own balloon, Seymore. He and I travel often on the safety seminar circuit providing training in the off season. The best part of our ballooning is being able to share it with our entire family.
4. What is your favorite part about participating in Balloon Fiesta?
For us, Balloon Fiesta is a celebration of ballooning with our friends who have become family. We started flying Balloon Fiesta in the late ‘90s and some crew from Albuquerque have been with us from that beginning. We love to fly and see the beautiful colors and shapes in the air. And we enjoy sharing this experience with so many others. Balloon Fiesta brings a high level of excitement, with the balloons, shapes, glows, and great fireworks.
5. What advice do you have for someone who is thinking about becoming a pilot?
Ballooning is a great family activity, and affordable for many people. The ballooning community is very welcoming to new pilots and crew. For pilots and even crew I highly recommend joining a local balloon club if available, as well as joining the Balloon Federation of America, our national balloon organization. Those resources will be very beneficial to gaining the knowledge needed to obtain a balloon and to learn to fly it safely.
Ballooning can and will change your life, and for us it provides great enjoyment and fun family interaction. Come and join us!
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