Timpson Frontier Days will feature a new attraction this year that will allow visitors to take to the skies, the “Jersey Lily.”
The Timpson Volunteer Fire Department will be hosting a hot air balloon ride in the park, and those wishing to experience the thrill of floating above the city of Timpson may do so.
The hot air balloon will be tethered to the ground, and will extend to just above treetop level. Riders will be able to see a beautiful sight as they look across the Timpson skyline.
The hot air balloon is being provided by Bob Evans and his wife Sheila. They have been involved with hot air balloons for over ten years.
The Light and Champion was invited to travel with Evans through the east Texas skies on Saturday, June 23 for a test flight above Timpson. The intended path of the flight for the hot air balloon was to travel over the City of Timpson. To do this, an initial test balloon, which is filled with helium was sent into the sky so that an evaluation could be made of the direction of the wind. This test was done in downtown Timpson, and as the helium balloon floated to the sky it was determined that the winds were traveling toward Mt. Enterprise from Timpson.
Evans made the decision to travel to CR 4037 to set the hot air balloon up for departure so that the balloon would hopefully travel over the City of Timpson.
Traveling down CR 4037 an open field was discovered from where the balloon could be launched. The flight crew made their way onto the field and began making preparations.
The flight crew on this trip was made up of Bob Evans, pilot; Sheila Evans, chase crew coordinator/driver, and David Shields.
Preparations began with unloading the basket into the field, and attaching the burner unit. Once this was accomplished, the balloon was stretched out, and was attached to the basket as the use of a fan was employed to help open up the balloon.
Once the balloon was totally open, and all attachments were confirmed to be secure, the process of inflating and heating the interior of the balloon began.
The burner is ignited causing heat to be pushed into the balloon. As this is done, the balloon begins to stand up.
As soon as the balloon was filled with heated air, it was time to board the basket, and ascend to the skies. Once on board the “Jersey Lily” Evans tugged at the burner, and the balloon lifted off.
As gentle as could be, and light as a feather, altitude was gained quickly into the skies on the outskirts of Timpson at 7:35 a.m. After the “Jersey Lily” hit 300 feet and continued to gain altitude at 200 feet per minute, a gust of wind began to send the balloon in the direction of Timpson.
The winds were favorable on that morning and the balloon traveled dead center over the gazebo on the Timpson city square.
“I’m just glad we got to go over Timpson, because when we first started out I thought we were going to miss the whole town,” said Evans. “It’s skill, it’s like sailing a boat, it’s just skill. The more experience you get, the better off you are.”
As the “Jersey Lily” continued to travel in a northwest direction, the ground crew tracked the flight from the ground. Contact was constant between the balloon and the ground crew, as Sheila drove and operated the radio from below. This helped the ground crew to always have an idea where the balloon was in the sky. This family experience in ballooning has been a family tradition for the Evans family for some time now.
“My oldest daughter and I, we got started doing this for the Great Texas Balloon Race in Longview. We got started doing that when she was 16, she’s 27 now,” said Evans. “She still comes back every year to crew with me in Longview.
Approximately two years ago, Evans realized that in his down time from being a carpenter, after ten years of involvement with hot air balloons, he wanted to become a hot air balloon pilot.
“I’ve been flying for about a year and a half. I had about six months of training and then I got my pilots license last July. This is a big deal, they don’t just say ‘Hey, go fly,’” said Evans.
Evans took the written exam and then was required to take the oral exam. This is no easy task, as the oral test is not multiple choice, and the pilot has to be well versed. He achieved this feat with assistance from his wife who quizzed him on the test.
“First off you take your written test, and you go to a FAA sanctioned examination station,” said Evans. “Then a couple months later I went to Dallas to take my flight exam from an FAA examiner named Pat Cannon, he’s one of the top guys in the country. He sets standards for the FAA.”
Once Evans took the oral test, it was time for the in-flight test which he took with Cannon, passed with flying colors, and has been flying constantly ever since.
After traveling for approximately eight miles, and reaching heights of 1600 feet, and about an hour and a half of flying on Saturday morning, it was time for the landing. There were several possibilities along the way, but none were just right. Fields with locked gates and nobody home, or egg farms with perfect landing zones, but with bio-secure environments. Once the prime location was located, the ground crew made contact with the land owner, and the go ahead was given for a landing. Just a few minutes more, and the “Jersey Lily” made touch down on land in a hay meadow.
After the ground crew made their way to the balloon, it was time to begin packing up.
The tree top level balloon ride will be available for a fee during Timpson Frontier Days, weather permitting, starting at 7 a.m. in So-So Park on Saturday July 7, and evening rides are also being planned for the same day.
The propane for the flight on that day will be provided by McAdams Propane, and proceeds from the ride will go to the Timpson Volunteer Fire Department to help raise funds for a new tanker truck.
For more information about the ride, contact Jason Terry, Timpson Volunteer Fire Chief, at 936-652-1123, or Paul Smith, Timpson Area Chamber of Commerce President, at 936-554-4557.