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March 14, 2022

We would like to celebrate all of the amazing women who have contributed to hot air ballooning and the success of the New Jersey Lottery Festival of Ballooning. Here are just a few we’d like to highlight this month, including one of our newer pilots:

Élisabeth Thible was the first woman on record to fly in an untethered hot air balloon on June 4, 1784.

Sophie Blanchard (commonly referred to as Madame Blanchard) was a French aeronaut and the wife of ballooning pioneer Jean-Pierre Blanchard. In 1805 she became the first woman to work as a professional balloonist, and after her husband’s death, she continued ballooning, making more than 60 ascents and became well known throughout Europe for her ballooning exploits.

Glo Kehoe has been a hot air balloon pilot for 30 years. When she began flying, there were few female pilots and she was one of the only ones who traveled to fly corporate sponsored balloons. 

While most people think of the traditional hot air balloon – the tear drop shape that they may see in the sky or have come to know from The Wizard of Oz – special shaped balloons are just that, special.

“I’ve probably flown more than two dozen different special shaped balloons,” said the Albuquerque, NM resident who is the preeminent balloon shapes pilot in the world. “They’re a lot more fun and I feel like the Pied Piper – everyone wants to follow you. I can’t wait to see their reaction when I fly the Tiger at this year’s festival.”

“I’ve flown a beer bottle, a champagne bottle, and two soft drink cans; a truck, a watch, and a film can; boy and girl piggy banks, along with a hamburger, a strawberry, a cake, and a popcorn bag; and a host of animals that include a panda, a whale, a penguin and the ever-popular Energizer Bunny.” 

Flying a hot air balloon can be challenging enough. Finding where to land one that’s bigger than the Statue of Liberty is an adventure in itself.

“The biggest challenge when I flew the bunny was finding a big enough landing site to lay down what was essentially a 16-story building on its side,” said Kehoe with a smile.      

Glo got into ballooning the same way most of her fellow pilots have. “You take a ride in someone else’s balloon and a year later you’ve gone out and bought your own.”

“I love flying at the New Jersey Lottery festival, it’s a great area to fly in and you can fly in just about any direction,” said Kehoe, who started flying here in 1988. “As the balloon goes where the wind takes us, it’s a tremendous advantage to be able to fly out 360 degrees. It’s a great place to be, you’re up there with 100 other balloons and there are tens of thousands of people on the ground below you having a great time. I also really enjoy the camaraderie of the other pilots who come in from all parts of the world just for this one weekend.”

Kelly Dubé Hilberth loves to share her love of ballooning. When she is not flying a balloon, the director of Balloon Talk can be found actively presenting educational balloon programming, engaging elementary, middle, and high school students to learn the history and science of hot air ballooning through hands-on assembly programs and STEM fundamentals.

Her program is also a great introduction to the opportunities that exist for women in ballooning.

In the summer of 2012, Kelly had her first behind-the-scenes experience with hot air ballooning and like so many of us was immediately hooked. After crewing and flying with expert pilots, Kelly attained her pilot’s license and everything has been just ducky — literally, that’s the name of her balloon! 

“I appreciate the adventure and excitement of each flight and enjoy customizing the balloon experience for people,” said Kelly. “It’s my pleasure to enhance their celebrations and a great honor to help you make your dreams of flight come true!”

Another reason to salute Kelly, one of our newer hot air balloon pilots: she has an all-female hot air balloon crew!

You can take a flight with Just Ducky Hot Air Balloon Experiences here at the Festival in July and throughout the year across New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Eastern Pennsylvania. 

Want icing on the cake? Kelly has a custom balloon-themed bakery business offering balloon-shaped and balloon-inspired cookies, cakes and treats.

Kaitlin Paciullo. A life-long Readington resident, Kaitlin has always enjoyed experiencing the magic of ballooning. 

She began her Festival career selling tickets at the Main Gate, then was selected as the Sponsorship, Marketing and Media Assistant where she began to build a network within the organization and strengthen partnership connections. After graduating from college, Kaitlin returned for the summers of 2018 and 2019 as the Interim Corporate Partnership Coordinator, where she expanded on her previous role and took on pre-event and on-site management opportunities. 

In 2020, Kaitlin was promoted to Director of Corporate Development. Her passion and excitement for the New Jersey Lottery Festival of Ballooning motivates her to continuously engage new partnerships and maintain meaningful relationships with long-standing exhibitors. 

Her goal is to provide vendors and partners with a personalized experience from inquiry to activation.