Pictured above: Jeff and Sandy Barlett’s balloon “Tumbleweed.” The couple has now built three hot air balloons – WSIC photo
STATESVILLE, N.C. (WSIC NEWS) – Somebody in your family has probably said something like this: “any do-it-yourselfer knows that it’s just always better to do it yourself.”
But who knew you can DIY a hot air balloon? Pilot Sandy Barlett her husband Jeff have now built three of them.
“You save money, you have a project, you learn something along the way, you have something interesting to talk to people about,” says Sandy. “Doing it yourself is always the best way to go if you have the time.”
They brought their balloon “Tumbleweed” to this weekend’s Carolina BalloonFest in Statesville.
“It’s really satisfying. It’s nice to know that you can actually accomplish it,” says Jeff. “It’s a huge accomplishment. The first time you fly a balloon that you build, it’s a rush because it’s like, ‘okay, this is cool, we built this.”
It took them more than two hundred hours the sew the balloon itself. They purchased the basket and burner.
“It’s just sewing a giant quilt,” says Jeff. “A bunch of little pieces go together and eventually you end-up with a balloon.”
Jeff and Sandy both say they feel safer in a balloon they created themselves.
“Twelve inches at a time I sew and I look at each side constantly,” says Sandy.
“Absolutely, I do feel safer because I know I built it. Actually, my wife did most of the sewing. But, we know what goes into it and the construction which makes you feel better because you know it’s going to stay together.”
It’s only fitting a couple that made three hot air balloons ended-up married thanks, in part, to a balloon ride. Jeff would be safe to say Sandy literally swept him off his feet.
“We worked together and she mentioned that she wanted to take me for a balloon ride and that’s how it all happened.”
Beyond just their marriage, Jeff and Sandy say hot air ballooning is about the people.
“It’s been about the people in ballooning and the travel, and being up in the air is a great feeling,” says Sandy.
“There’s a lot of camaraderie,” says Jeff. “The ballooning community is a very small, tight-knit community, so we’ve made a lot of really good friends over the years.”
This weekend’s Carolina BalloonFest is rain or shine and runs through Sunday.