Local Balloon Champion Returns to Xenia Festival
Greene County 's own Al Nels will be one of three balloonists returning to the Xenia Community Festival on Friday, September 16 for the beloved Balloon Glow at the Xenia Community Festival in Shawnee Park.
Al and his son will both participate, as they have for many years. Al will also fly in other Ohio events including the Middletown Ohio Challenge balloon event and the Canton Pro Football Hall of Fame balloon rally.
Al has earned his way to eight World Championships for hot air balloons. He will be heading to Japan this fall as part of Team USA, a highly skilled group of our nation’s top ten balloonists. While Al has won two World Championships, the last time he flew in southern Japan at a World Championship he placed 2nd, so this time he is anxious to bring back the gold to the United States. “When you are that close to the top podium, it is very motivating to return and stand tall for the United States,” Al said.
Al will be flying practice flights throughout Greene County in preparation for the big event. His balloon, Time Flies, represents his family heritage and community. The scene on Time Flies shows a farm reminiscent of Greene County with the city of Dayton skyline in the distant background. The other graphics on the balloon include representations of his family such at the Ele Cake Company, of which his oldest daughter is founding member. An apple in the tree represents his school teacher daughter, while his third daughter is shown with her love of reading under the tree. Al’s son is an Aerospace Engineer for Delta Airlines as shown by the Delta 757 gracing the skies on the balloon. Several other family members are graphically represented including Al’s wife with the barn quilt.
Al Nels launched his first hot air balloon at age 11 followed shortly thereafter with a hydrogen balloon. Those first balloons were made from dry-cleaning bags, the former powered by birthday candles. After getting his first ride in a hot air balloon while in college, he embraced the sport and earned his commercial license about a month after that first ride. After a few years of sport ballooning Al entered competitive ballooning with gusto. Over the years he has won multiple United States Nationals and World Championships in hot air balloons. He has served as competition director for multiple events and as the Team Manager for the US Team at several World Championships. Al holds commercial ratings for balloons ( gas and hot air) and instrument airplane. He is a recent recipient of the Ed Yost Master Pilot Award.
In addition to the Balloon Glow, the 2016 Festival will feature paddleboats on the lake, food, vendors, the parade, the Third Annual Junked Bike Art Competition, open house at the Armory and free live local entertainment headlined by Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers Saturday night. The Festival will be open from 4 pm to 9 pm Friday and 9 am to 9 pm Saturday. The opening ceremony will begin at 6 pm Friday.