Tim Taylor was the experienced pilot of the balloon that glided three miles in the northeasterly breeze from Storm Mountain Park to Lee's well-groomed lawn.
Taylor's third balloon, named Dee III in honor of his wife Daren, featured an eye-catching 105,000 cubic-foot envelope made of ripstop nylon and decorated with the stars and stripes. Before its launch, it attracted the attention of scores of amateur photographers competing in the festival's photo competition. Hundreds of spectators, bundled up in blankets and lined the park to watch the balloons lift into the clear blue sky.
Taylor, based in Salt Lake City, traveled in his first hot air balloon on his wedding day 23 years ago.
"That was his first flight, and he hasn't gotten out since," said Daren, who drove a truck to retrieve her husband and balloon, which was easily deflated with the help of camera-toting bystanders. It folded into a sack the size of the late Andre the Giant in a fetal position.
"I love to fly," said Taylor. "I get goosebumps every time I get in the basket."
His daughter, Mari, said ballooning is a "very family-oriented sport."
It's also a very expensive pursuit. The envelope of the balloon is valued at $83,000, Taylor said.
Taylor and other balloon owners and operators will launch again Saturday morning about 7 a.m., and at least one tethered balloon will be on hand to give short up-and-down rides to spectators. The balloons will return in the evening to the festival near City Hall.
Lee told Taylor and his family that he would welcome a return landing on his lawn Saturday. This next time, he would have the coffee brewed and ready for the crew.
Sandy Hot Air Balloon Festival
When • Saturday at 7 a.m. for balloon launch at Storm Mountain Park; 8 p.m. at South Towne Promenade
Where • Storm Mountain Park, 11400 S. 100 East, Sandy; South Towne Promenade, 10000 S. 173 West, Sandy
Admission • Free
Festival • From 8-10 p.m, the festival will come to life as the balloons fire up their burners and glow in the evening sky. Food will be available from Surefire Pizza and Snowie Snow Cones, with hamburgers, hot dogs and french fries from Expo Foods. There will be music throughout the evening on the festival stage.