Dave Robinson and a couple guys from his crew at Windjammer Balloon Flights, faces turned skyward, let out a chorus of simultaneous exclamations.
The helium-filled, latex balloon they'd released a minute earlier had just jolted horizontally in the sky, indicating the presence of a strong wind. Until and unless that wind died down, the flotilla of hot-air balloons from all over the country was going to remain on the ground that evening.
It was about 5 p.m. Sunday at John Rudy Park in West Manchester Township, site of York County's Sixth Annual Balloon Festival. This year, Robinson said, the weather's been less than cooperative.
Friday was perfect ballooning weather, Robinson said, allowing 28 balloons to go airborne and kick things off.
Whether the 16 balloonists remaining Sunday would be able to close out the festival with another flight depended on whether the wind subsided in the next couple hours.
"This has been one of the worst years, weatherwise, I've ever had," Robinson said.
He provides balloon flights year-round. This winter was unusually windy, he said. Spring, usually one of his busiest times, has been tough, too. Though there hasn't been an excessive amount of precipitation, a lot of windy storms have kept his balloons grounded.
But when you're in his line of work, you learn that railing against the weather does no good. Balloons are more subject to atmospheric changes than any other aircraft, he said. When the weather permits, you fly. When it doesn't, you don't.
Besides, the festival had plenty of entertainment besides the balloons. On Sunday evening, hundreds of people were making their way around a collection of booths and tents. Kids were bouncing on an inflatable slide and making their way up a climbing wall on the side of a giant Easter Island head.
On average, Robinson said, the festival brings in about 15,000 people -- good ballooning weather or not. He organized the first one to make up the shortfall when York County parks were losing some funding and has held it as a fundraiser every year since.
"It's a great way to bring awareness to the parks, and it's a great way for the community to give back to the parks," he said.
Gerard Simms of Manchester Township was among a line of people sitting on blankets and lawn chairs, facing the field where the balloons were stored, in case they should take off.
Simms was there with his wife and their three children, as part of a family Father's Day celebration. Yes, he'd like to see the balloons take off, but he was enjoying himself whether they did or not.
"This is nice," Simms said. "I don't have no complaints."
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