Vt. balloonist launches flight to connect kids - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. balloonist launches flight to connect kids

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Hot air balloonist Brian Boland is well-known for his balloons, which are often spotted up above the Upper Valley. He's been making them for 40 years. He's also well-known for the giant wooden dinosaur he built at the Post Mills Airport he calls home.

Now, Boland is embarking on his next big endeavor.

"We are heading to Costa Rica with a very lightweight, portable hot air balloon that we are taking to schools all over Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama," Boland said.

And the balloon is one-of-a-kind. It does not have a basket. Instead, it has two shoes attached to a harness that Boland can slip his feet into. The fuel tank is also an original design-- separate pieces that become one. The entire apparatus including the burner was packed away in luggage for the 30-day trip. He's flying by plane to the different countries.

"The balloon itself is made out of parachute fabric, which is not the norm for balloon fabric. It's very light. The entire balloon packs up into a ball," Boland said.

Boland recently conducted two test flights at local elementary schools. And the kids are sending a little piece of themselves on the trip. They traced their hands on the balloon, which Boland plans to replicate at dozens of schools in Central America. He'll launch the balloon from the playgrounds, and then return with the balloon and markers. The trip is a test run for an around-the-world voyage he's planning next year.

"In the end, kids down there will be touching the hands of kids up here and kids from South Africa and kids from India," Boland said.

He's calling the adventure "Hands Around the World," a reminder, he says, that we are all in this together.

"And then within the scope of the hands from each country, we will get a small flag from each country and pin it to the balloon. So, there is one flag so far and it's the American flag," Boland said. "It's just a neat thing of bringing a balloon to kids who have never seen such a thing in their life."

Taking flight to connect lives a world apart.

In case you are wondering, Boland has been working with TSA officials to make sure there will be no issues getting his balloon through security at the airport.

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