As the Festival’s Balloonmeisters, John Piper is in charge of coordinating all balloon activities for all five scheduled mass inflations and ascensions for the more than 100 pilots who take to the skies over the scenic Hunterdon County countryside. Piper oversees balloon crew teams and coordinates ride activities with our balloon ride operations team.
He also conducts extensive briefings including the latest weather conditions with our pilots prior to each of our mass inflations and ascensions and coordinates each flight with New York Air Traffic Control to assure aircraft separation and safety.
John is an experienced pilot with more than 25 years of experience. He has been flying at the Festival since 2001 and Solberg Airport is his home base for ballooning.
Piper knows about balloons and family entertainment — he is the Vice President of the Macy’s Parade Studio, where he oversees the design and production of all balloons, floats and elements for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The Parade Studio also produces large scale events for Macy’s such as the Fourth of July Fireworks, large scale holiday events and numerous spring Flower Shows.
His love of everything that flies stems from his childhood. “I’ve been trying to get off this planet all my life,” said Piper. “Since I was a little kid, I’ve been enamored by everything that flies. Kites, planes, balloons.”
John took his first hot air balloon ride in 1984. Like so many others, that led to him buying his own balloon. He then became a crew member, then an observer, and then emcee for the Hot Air Balloon Jubilee in Jackson, MI where he subsequently served as the Balloonmeister for 9 years. He received his private hot air balloon license in 1993, his commercial license in 1994. When he moved to New Jersey in 2001, he started flying here at the Festival.