BP has a strong commitment to being involved in the communities in which it operates.
BP's balloon in flight at the 2010 Great Wellsville Balloon Derby
The BP balloon returned for a second year to the 2010 Great Wellsville Balloon Rally and BP, on behalf of its affiliated company, Atlantic Richfield, once again was a major sponsor of the event.
BP donated $4500 for the fireworks and the Moonbounce in the Children’s Activities area, and handed out over 1,000 souvenir balloon cards to children at the event.
Project Manager Eric Larson said, “We had a great time at the event and we’re looking forward to returning next year.”View the 2010 Balloon Rally Slideshow (6 images)
BP's balloon prepares for take-off at the 2009 Great Wellsville Balloon Derby
Click here for the 2009 slideshow (20 images)
A white truck hauling a small trailer emblazoned with BP logos slowly makes its way through the early morning twilight of the quiet, little town of Wellsville, New York. Inside the truck, the BP balloon team of Phil Bryant and Rick Hatzel, are keeping a careful watch on the sky overhead as they make their way to what will soon be a launch site filled with dozens of balloons of varying shapes, sizes and colors and the beginning of the 34th Annual Great Wellsville Balloon Rally
A volunteer crew arrives and Hatzel directs them on spreading the nylon envelope of the balloon over the still-damp grass; then lends a hand to Bryant in attaching the propane burner to the wicker basket. They work quickly, but without hurry, through a routine they have performed hundreds of times together over the years.
Bryant takes a moment to release a test balloon (known as a piball) into the sky. Bryant and Hatzel stand together and watch intently, studying the wind currents. The balloon rises smoothly and rapidly out of the river valley and begins to move southeast towards the rolling green hills that are quickly becoming more visible as the dawn begins to break. The two friends nod and get back to work.
Bryant stations a crewmember by a fan that begins to inflate the balloon’s envelope and climbs into the basket while Hatzel and the other volunteers help spread the nylon material. The lean and wiry Hatzel takes charge of the main guideline and Bryant commands the burner. He shoots bursts of the hot air into the envelope until the inflation is complete.
The crew helps the two passengers into the basket beside Bryant. Today’s passengers include a news photographer and Wellsville’s Director of Public Works. After Bryant gives safety instructions, Hatzel walks the guideline in and attaches it to the basket’s frame. On Bryant’s command, the crew releases the balloon and it ascends gently, gracefully, quietly up out of the river valley into the blue sky and then out towards the green hills beyond Wellsville.
Remediation Management’s Environmental Business Manager Eric Larson watches the balloon, with its bright BP helios logo, fly over Wellsville and smiles. "Wow," he says softly.
Larson is BP’s person "on the ground" in Wellsville, responsible for the clean-up project at a former Sinclair refinery site immediately across the river from the launch site.
Larson explained the reason BP became a major sponsor of the balloon event, donating the money to make the Saturday fireworks display possible and hosting the children’s activities area with its large inflatable games. "This remediation project is located at the site of a Sinclair refinery that closed in 1959. After Atlantic Richfield Company (AR) acquired Sinclair in 1969, AR took over responsibility for environmental liabilities. This site has never been identified with BP. While we have worked closely with local officials and other community leaders, the balloon gives us an opportunity to introduce ourselves to the public-at-large. I really can’t think of a more positive way of introducing BP and our project to this community than at this great event. There is something a little magical about balloon flight – something that brings out the kid in everyone. When the balloons land, adults and children alike come running out to see."
On the second morning of the event, the winds and the weather cooperated, allowing a long ride over the countryside before landing in a freshly mown pasture. After the balloon was stowed away, Bryant presented the surprised and still sleepy property owners with the traditional gift of a bottle of wine, as well as the story of how that tradition began in 19th century France when the earliest balloonists appeased sometimes frightened or angry farmers with bottles of Champagne. He then brought out special glasses to share a toast for the safe voyage of the first-time passengers on the flight. Bryant then gave the customary recital of "The Balloonist's Prayer."
"The winds have welcomed you with softness,
The sun has greeted you with its warm hands,
You have flown so high and so well
That God has joined you in laughter,
And set you back gently into
The loving arms of Mother Earth."
With that, the passengers, the crew and the neighbors who came out to the landing clinked glasses and celebrated the oldest - and most magical - means of flight.