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The Energizer Bunny Hot “Hare” Balloon will fly at the 30th annual Alabama Jubilee Hot AIr Balloon Classic on May 26 and 27.
Courtesy photo
The Energizer Bunny Hot “Hare” Balloon will fly at the 30th annual Alabama Jubilee Hot AIr Balloon Classic on May 26 and 27.

Energizer Bunny to fly at Jubilee

By Paul Huggins · 340-2395

If you're going to have just one specialty balloon, you might as well get one of the biggest.

That's what organizers for the 30th annual Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic did this year in attracting the Energizer Bunny Hot "Hare" Balloon.

At 166 feet tall, the pink pitchman stands 15 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty. Its ears alone are 60 feet tall, about the same height as an averaged-sized balloon. Its trademark dark sunglasses are 32 feet wide, and its drum is 45 feet in diameter.

Only the Patriot, an inflatable replica of the space shuttle, is taller at 178 feet.

"I had never actually seen it, so I went to the Web site and said 'Oh, my God. That's huge,' " said Jubilee President Jack Gressman. "I think the kids will just go crazy for it. I think a lot of adults will too."

As a bonus, Energizer is sending the balloon and crew to the May 26-27 festival free of charge. Large specialty shapes almost always require a large fee, but the battery company said it simply wanted to participate in Jubilee and wanted nothing in return.

"I said that's awesome; I'm not going to turn you down," Gressman said.

The two-day festival on Memorial Day weekend has attracted 62 pilots so far, though usually a handful make last-minute cancellations.

The balloon pilots will follow their traditional flight schedule with the Hound and Hare Race at 6:30 a.m. on May 26 and the Key Grab on May 27 at 6:30 a.m. There are two fun flights set for each afternoon at 5:30. The Balloon Glow will be May 26 at dusk, and the next night will offer a fireworks show at about 9:30.

Musical entertainment will begin each day at about noon and offer a range of tunes including country, Christian rock, blues rock and soft rock.

"There's something on the menu for everybody," said Bob Long, entertainment chairman. "We'll have some who've been here before like Natchez Trace. And we've got a new group called Standard Candle. Their lead guitarist graduated from Brewer High, and they've got their first CD coming out."

Jubilee also offers children's' games and activities, a food court, an antique car show, an antique tractor show and an arts and craft show. Free shuttle parking is available both days, with pick up sites at Wolverine Tube and General Electric.

Recruiting balloon set-up and chase crews is one of the traditions of Jubilee, and this year's crew school is Saturday at 7 a.m. at the open field next to Home Depot in Decatur.

The crew school teaches volunteers how to set up and inflate balloons, the responsibilities of chase crews and how to deflate and pack the balloon after it lands. Four to five balloon pilots will assist with the school.

A young couples group from Decatur Baptist Church has already volunteered to help the Energizer Bunny pilot.

Gressman said a typical balloon needs four or five crewmembers to help inflate and launch. The Energizer Bunny, which weighs 1,200 pounds, requires 12 to 18.

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