5.1. - 12.1.2025

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Dolomites - South Tyrol - Italy
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E-Mail: info@balloonfestival.it

The history of the hot air balloons

Can you believe that the hot air balloon began with a sheep, a duck and a rooster?montgolfier balloon 

French brothers, Jacques and Joseph Montgolfier were the local paper manufacturers in the town of Alchemy in southern France. The brothers noticed that when they burnt paper the ashes floated up in the air. They thought that the heat and smoke from the flame had a special lifting quality and set their minds to inventing a craft that could capture smoke and heat to lift them off the ground.

On the 19th of September, 1783, the Montgolfier brothers successfully launched a balloon made from paper and cloth. To inflate the balloon they burned a combination of straw, chopped wool and dried horse manure underneath the balloon. As the straw burned it released heat that helped the balloon float. The wool and manure made lots of smoke and helped keep the burning flame low, which lessened the risk of the balloon catching fire. The brothers were far too nervous to try out their invention themselves so they sent up a sheep, a duck and a rooster to see what happened. The paper balloon floated up into the sky and landed safely after eight minutes.

The First Crewed Flight
Once the Montgolfier brothers realised what they had achieved they, approached the King of France to see if he would view their invention, with two people on board instead of farmyard animals. King Louis XVI agreed.

On the 21st of November, 1783, a hot air balloon was launched in Paris for all to see. On board were two close friends of the brothers, Pilatre de Rozier and Francois Laurnet (the modern word ‘pilot’ comes from Pilatre de Rozier’s name). The balloon was successfully launched and rose 500 feet (approx 150 m) above the rooftops of Paris, eventually landing a few miles away in some vineyards.

The beginning of a tradition, or so the story goes...

As the hot air balloon landed in the vineyard, local farmers raced towards it with pitchforks, ready to attack this strange object from the sky. To prevent the farmers from destroying the balloon, Pilatre and Francois offered them a bottle of champagne, as thanks for allowing them to land in their field. Today, in memory of that first courageous flight, champagne (or an Australian sparkling wine!) is often drunk after a hot air balloon ride.

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