Skip & Toni Durham

Balloon Meister

Mischief

Skip and Toni have been involved in ballooning since 2009, first as a private pilot flying for fun and then as a commercial pilot. In 2010, they formed Bluff City Balloon to give others the fun and enjoyment of a private hot air balloon ride. They are one of only 6 balloons in the country specially outfitted to take up folks with any special needs. Giving and sharing is a way of life for the Durhams, they are excited to be a part of the fiesta.

Andy Cayton

Eddie & Rickenbacker

In 2018, Andy Cayton and his co-pilot Bill Smith came very close to winning the Gordon Bennett and with it the world championships, with a nail-biter of a flight that included a water transit over the Mediterranean Sea. He’s know as a determined, gutsy competitor whose achievements transcend ballooning. Andy has a distinguished record in military aviation, earning the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal (x), Air Medal with Valor, Air Medal, Army Accommodation Medal (x2), Army Achievement Medal (x2), Senior Aviator Badge, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, and Boeing Defense and Space Rescue Citation (x2). During a world record gas flight attempt, he had to avoid Area 51, the top-secret military testing installation in Nevada that some say harbors aliens. Air Traffic Control warned him he would be shot down if he didn’t keep the proper clearance. That’ll get your attention!

Bill Cunningham

Star Bird

Married to wife Martha for 48 years. Have 2 daughters – Jenny is a regional manager for a fitness chain and mother of our 3 grandkids. Maggie is a Delta Airlines pilot and is married to a FedEx pilot. I started flying in 1978.
Currently have over 2300 hours.

I was a full time balloonist from 1978 to 1991. Sold balloons, champagne flights, corporate tethers, banner flights, cold air inflatables. Also flew corporate balloons for Seven-Up, Red Lobster, Holiday Inn, Budweiser, Schlitz, Old Milwaukee, United Van Lines, Refco Commodities and others.

I started flying national and international competition in 1981. I’ve had 17 top 5 finishes out of 25 events including #1 twice in 3 North American Championships, a 3rd and 7th in 3 World Championships and 2nd in 5 U.S. National Championships.

Ken Garner

Serendipity

I call Decatur, Alabama home, growing up in the small town of Hartselle, Alabama, I’ve had a love of airplanes and flying since I was very young. I got my Private Fixed Wing (airplane) Pilot Certificate in 1984, and then my Private LTA and Commercial Certificate in 1986 and 1987.

From a Very Young age, my Mom told me that anytime an airplane would fly over I would watch it as long as I could see it. I remember one day running out of a store in Huntsville, Alabama when I heard the roar of the engines of an airplane coming into the old Huntsville airport that was about 1⁄2 mile from the Parkway Shopping Center, one of the largest shopping centers in Huntsville at the time. I always wanted to fly, and never had any idea one day I could.

Ben Noyce

Briar Rose

From flying over the deserts of New Mexico, the Noyce family brought their ballooning adventures to Southwest Tennessee for a career change after retiring from the military. Having flown around the world, they enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and people of the South. Breaking free of the COVID slump, they are enjoying the skies of the Greater Southeast once again while sharing their adventures with folks in their Adams 90K, Briar Rose. So as you drive through Tennessee, be sure to look up as you might catch a sight of them or a small handful of other Tennessee pilots enjoying the Southern Skies.

Michael J Stinson

Xclusive

Michael is from Louisville, Kentucky and has been involved with ballooning since the early 80s with his uncle. Michael is a former astronaut with NASA and has experienced flights in several states and Mexico in balloons up to 120,000 cubic feet is just a glimpse of this commercial pilot’s history. He successfully flew over the Grand Canyon in a hot air balloon in 2020. When not up in the air, Michael serves his city as Battalion Chief of the Louisville Fire Department, with 23 1/2 years of service to date. He is also the owner/operator of Louisville Tree Care. Proudly married with two children, one of whom is currently a student pilot. The firefighting, hot air balloon pilot is looking forward to being a part of the festival.

Mike Wahl

Cool Ray

In May 1978, Mike spotted his first hot-air balloon, drifting overhead as he floated in a boat on the Tennessee River. That was the last time he just watched a balloon. The next year he and wife Cathy were crewing for a balloonist from Indiana. A few years later, he was offered the chance to learn how to fly the Decatur, Alabama balloon and he grabbed it.

Since earning his license, Mike has piled up more than 1,000 hours flying, flown 10 different balloons, owned 8 of them, and taught 15 students who got their pilot’s licenses.

Robert Grimes

Naughty Too

I got the bug for hot air balloons from my neighbor in 1977. He had just won the first hot air balloon championship.

I was a college student at the time and didn’t have much money to spend on flight instruction until

Conway Twitty the country music star from Nashville gave me a call and said he would pay for all of my training and buy my first balloon system if I would agree to dump his ashes from my balloon when he dies. I said Yes! And thank you, and that is how my hot air balloon adventure started.

William Randell

Wicked

After being discharged from the NASA astronaut program. I wanted to stay in aviation. I tried flying ultralight aircraft

Only to find they were too light. Skydiving left no room for mistakes. And crop dusting I couldn’t get high enough. While sitting on my back porch when a balloon landed about 20 feet from me piloted by my future wife. I fell in love with the balloon first and then my wife. We are a ballooning team.