ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDY // DOCUMENTARY
My professor asked us to study a subculture and to create an artifact showing our research process. Below are a few interesting discoveries I made researching, interviewing and filming hot air balloonists living in Statesville, NC.
BALLOONING IS SOMETHING THAT YOU CATCH FROM SOMEONE
Balloonist Charles Page described his first experience at the Carolina Balloon festival as "the most amazing thing I'd ever seen."
Balloon rallies are often the entry point to ballooning. Statesville, North Carolina has hosted an annual balloon rally, a communal gathering of hundreds of balloons, for the last 44 years.
A business decision created a culture. The balloon festival began when Tracy Barnes, an inventor & balloon manufacturer, decided the balloonists he sold balloons to needed a place to "tell their stories."
Mentorship is key to learning. Charles Page and Jack Pontecelli were both inspired to buy balloons after learning the art of ballooning from the first pilots they flew with.
THE DEEPLY CURIOUS PILOT WEARS MANY HATS
"Pilots, you think they would be very similar people, but they are not. They are doctors, politicians, people who do everything you could imagine, but they have a curiosity to test things." -Tracy Barnes
DESIGNER: Tracy Barnes invented the parachute top and did not patent it so other manufactures could use it and improve it. "My dad encouraged me to break things- he as an engineer knew that to design something you had to take things apart to know how strong they are."
SCIENTIST: There is an experimental balloon rally that empowers people to test new ideas: "only people who build their own balloons can fly there."
ENTREPRENEUR: The balloonists mentioned inventing, giving rides, advertising and even acting as surveillance for the military. This entrepreneurial attitude is also present in how they overcome the barriers to ballooning: "I worked on their balloons in exchange for lessons."
BALLOONING CREATES AN EXTENDED FAMILY
"Sometimes people just show up, it is a celebration every time we fly." -Charles Page
Many people act as chasers (follow the balloons from the ground and go to the landing field to help) & "in exchange for their work we [balloonists] pass the ballooning on to them."
It is a tradition to toast a balloon flight with champagne wherever a balloon might land with whomever is present. Some farmers, who have heard about the tradition, will bring champagne with them when they come out to greet their ballooning visitors.