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Thursday, Sep. 05, 2013

Hot-air balloon drops in on football field at Olathe South High School

The Kansas City Star

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A Peaceful World came crashing down on the football practice field Tuesday night at Olathe South High School.

It’s not nearly as bad as it sounds.

Peaceful World is a hot-air balloon — a 100-foot-tall Cameron Z-105, to be precise — that drew a crowd when it landed on the track circling the Falcons’ FieldTurf at the end of a sunset tour.

Ryan Forschee, who drove the balloon’s watch-car and was in charge of landing it safely, said Federal Aviation Administration guidelines require hot-air balloonists to land before the sun goes down.

For this flight, the Olathe South campus provided the landing pad.

“We were on a sunset tour and going wherever the wind took us,” said Stacey Shannon of Kingsville, Mo., who was accompanied by her husband, Greg, on the flight.

Falcons football coach Jeff Gourley unlocked the gate after seeing the rainbow-colored, quilt-patterned balloon touch down on his track. Peaceful World’s owner and pilot, Becky Petrehn, whose family began hot-air ballooning in the 1970s, allowed the children who flocked to the scene to help guide it out.

“We were going for a field goal, but we missed by a couple feet,” Petrehn joked.

Dozens of cars, mostly parents with their kids in tow, pulled into the school’s parking lots as the balloon descended.

“We typically do draw a crowd,” Forschee said. “Normally, we’re flying in the country and there’s nobody around, but anytime we get close to the city we’ll have 30-plus cars come chasing you down.”

During the flight, Zack Holk of Overland Park, who was on the sunset tour with his wife, Lisa, said they encountered plenty of people waving from the crowd and a lot of barking dogs.

Still, the Shannons and Holks hadn’t expected the romantic escapade to draw so much attention.

“We did not expect to have such a crowd when we landed, but it’s fun,” Zack Holk said.

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/todpalmer.

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