We are proud to present this year’s balloon pilots! These balloonists from the great states of Tennessee, Iowa, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia will be bringing over 150+ years of combined experience and a diverse collection of vibrant balloons with them to the festival. Our pilots have flown as far as Australia and Costa Rica in search of the most beautiful landscapes many people only dream about. They come from diverse backgrounds, have been in numerous competitions and races and have perfomed aerial stunts. Do not miss some of the greatest pilots in the world. Come and enjoy the sights and sounds of some of the most elaborate balloons known to man.

Steve Davis, 2018 Balloon Meister

Steve is a new resident of Blount County with his wife Amy and their two boys, Beaux and Spruce. Amy Davis is Roy Smith’s daughter. Steve has been a licensed pilot since 1985 and has logged more than 2000 hours in 35 states and five countries. Some of his favorite locations to fly include the mountains of Montana and Costa Rica. In the late 1990s, Steve also began using a balloon as a platform from which to skydive. This led to the involvement of performing aerial stunts involving a balance beam between two balloons, rope ladders and tea parties on top of balloons.

Meredith Bennett
Meredith is from Columbus, OH and has been involved in the ballooning community for over 15 years, with piloting her balloons for over 12 years. She has been travelling to rallies throughout Ohio, North Carolina, Indiana, New Mexico, and Michigan and is excited to add Tennessee to her list. This is her first time flying in the Muscadine Balloon Fiesta and is very excited to be invited to attend and fly her new balloon Moonshine for you all this year.

Meredith Balloon

Danny Campbell
Dan Campbell has been flying hot air balloons since 1973 (44 years) and is the Chief Pilot and Z-Balloon Adventures owner/operator. An avid Hot-Air Balloon Pilot, Dan averages between 120 to 190 flights a year. Dan is also a Special Shape Pilot and he owns several unique balloons. Dan holds numerous Hot-Air Balloon records and awards. In 1998 he ranked 1st in the nation in the Balloon Federation of America’s Long Jump Competition. In addition, Dan holds the distinction of being Iowa’s furthest flying pilot. In 1998 Dan also became the first pilot in Iowa in over 24 years to fly in the dark. Dan has a LifeTime membership in the BFA (Balloon Federation of America), since 1989. Dan is also a BFA Level VII Prominent Aeronaut and a FAA Safety Wings Program Level 12 Pilot. In the last few years, Dan has flown in China, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Canada and Mexico as well as all over the US. Campbell flies 1-2 Balloon Races a year as the balloon ride business keeps him busy at home. Dan was also ordained as a Minister in 2001 so as to allow him to conduct balloon weddings and cremation scattering ceremonies.

To book a balloon ride with Danny contact him at balloon@dwx.com or call (515) 265-2402. 

Danny Marie Balloon

Wayne Fortney
Wayne Fortney lives in Kingsport and has been flying his balloon named Rosie since 1996. His entire family enjoys the sport, and he even met his wife on a balloon ride in Bristol, Virginia. Wayne has attended rallies all over the US and Canada and attends The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in October for the 12th time. Wayne’s Team Mantra: “We launch with passengers…We land with friends.”

Wayne Balloon

Joseph Hurdt
Joseph owns Excite Tech Inc, a technology and consulting firm in Shelby, NC. He enjoys working in a field where ideas and solutions are ever-changing. As unique and exciting as his daily tasks may be, nothing compares to ballooning. Joseph’s enthusiasm for the sport began after receiving a surprise birthday flight, and he has been flying or dreaming of flying since. For Joseph, ballooning is about bringing families together; his own, as well as a growing community of pilots and crew. His greatest reward, however, is seeing the sense of wonder and amazement in the eyes of the children and families he’s met while piloting SunCatcher.

Joseph Balloon

Brian Hoyle
Brian Hoyle is from Raleigh, NC, and has been involved with flight since the 1980’s, though only recently became a pilot in 2005. Brian runs Hot Air Marketing, a marketing consulting firm specializing developing promotions, experiential marketing, public relations and social media marketing strategies with partners at the agency and brand levels. His balloon “Papa Red” is one of the nation’s few wheelchair accessible balloons. The Hoyles dedicate much of their balloon work with Papa Red and a portion of proceeds from tethered rides to Project Uplift USA, an all-volunteer group founded by Brian, committed to promoting Americanism and volunteerism through its annual Freedom Balloon Fest held Memorial Day weekend honoring Gold Star family members. Throughout the year, the organization works to provide hot air balloon experiences for military families and children living with mobility challenges and they offer free, K-12 STEM-based educational enrichment programs using hot air balloons as a teaching tool.

Marc Klinger
Marc Klinger and his wife Ursula currently reside in Troutman, NC. Marc has worked for Piedmont Plastics, Inc. for the past 25 years and is currently the company’s Chief Information Officer. They maintain a small farm in Troutman, North Carolina with some friendly donkeys, chickens and other wildlife. Both Marc and Ursula are both rated balloon pilots and have been involved in ballooning for over 27 years, clocking 750 hours. Marc is involved with the Carolinas Balloon Association, a regional balloon organization, as well the Aero Club of America, currently the only active Gas Ballooning organization in the US. Marc also flies competitively being recognized as the most improved rookie in 2016, finishing 13th nationally.

To book a balloon ride with Marc, contact him atmklinger@bellsouth.net or call (704) 995-3005.

Daniel Sasser
Daniel has been involved in ballooning since he was six years old. He attended a balloon rally with his family and has been hooked ever since. Currently living in the Charlotte, NC, Daniel has had the opportunity to fly all across the southeast, and has even flown in ‘the big one,’ Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico. Daniel enjoys sharing his passion with friends, family, and all the cool people you meet along the way. He is thrilled to be returning to beautiful east Tennessee to participate in this event, which is one of his favorites, and fly along so many friends for such a worthy cause.

To book a balloon ride with Daniel contact him at daniel.sasser.410@gmail.com or call (843) 819-0757.

Phillip MacNutt
Originally from Hammond Louisiana, Phillip now lives in Salisbury, North Carolina with his wife Renee. In 1986 he received his private pilot’s license for hot air balloons, and then advanced to a commercial rating 3 years later. In 2001, he received his gas balloon rating. With over 1,000 hours to date in balloons, Phillip has flown in 17 states within the US, and also has flown in France, Germany, England, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, The Netherlands, Mexico, and Austria. In 1994, he built his first balloon system, and then went on to design and construct several more systems including a gas balloon that he flew several times in the America’s Challenge gas balloon race, as well as a replica of Ed Yost’s famous “Silver Fox” transatlantic gas balloon. Phillip, along with co-pilot Richard Abruzzo flew the 2005 Gordon Bennett gas race, launching from Brussels Belgium and landing 3 days later in eastern Finland near the Russian border, a total of nearly 2,000 kilometers in distance. Phillip has also been quite involved in high altitude balloon work with 3 flights above 20,000 feet, including a flight to 32,000 feet. He has spoken on the subject as a featured speaker at a BFA safety seminar in Houston, Texas. In October 2002, BFA President Phil Bryant presented the BFA Director’s award to Phillip for his contributions and spirit in ballooning. In 2012, Phillip achieved the highest available level (Distinguished) in the BFA’s Pilot Achievement award program.

Phill and Balloon

Jayme Nelson
Jayme is from Anderson, SC and has been in the ballooning world since she was born. Her father, Jim Hendershot, has been a pilot for over thirty years and taught her how to fly. She enjoys traveling to balloon events around the southeast with her parents, husband, and daughter. Her balloon, Palmetto Paws, represents her love for Clemson and her home state of South Carolina.

Monroe Life Balloon Fiesta, Balloon Fiesta, Monroe Fiesta, CASA Monroe, Hot Air Balloon, Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

Roger Clark
Roger Clark is a passionate pilot with over 3,900 hours in balloons, and certified 15 pilots. He has flown in most of the largest festivals, many states and about every type of balloon. He has been a flight instructor, ground instructor, safety seminar instructor, balloon manufacturer worker (HEAD) and am currently a FAAST Team member for the Southern Region. He flew for the following major sponsors among others: Ziploc, Re/Max, Longhorn Steakhouse, Coors Light, Crafted with Pride/Made in USA, WSPA-TV7, WESC-92.5 FM, Freedom Weekend Aloft and numerous individual banner events and sponsors. He was the staff meteorologist for the BFA Nationals in 2006 & 2008 and the weather officer for Camden Balloon Rally (1991), Balloons Over Anderson (2010-2016), Freedom Weekend Aloft (2011-2014) and the Carolina Balloonfest in Statesville (2011-2017). He has also taught at the CBA Safety Seminar in 2011 and 2014, Safety Seminar at Sea in 2012-2014 and 2018 and BFA Approved Southeast Regional Ground School/Safety Seminar in 2012 and 2013. While his flying has been predominately in the Southeast, he has been around the BFA Nationals and the World’s and is familiar with the needs of the ballooning community at large.

To book a balloon ride with Roger contact him at roger.clark@live.com or call (864) 631-3243.

Buddy Carter

I became a private pilot in 1986 and a commercial pilot in 1989. I have over 660 hrs of flight time. My wife and I live North Carolina(NC), USA. We got into ballooning to share our sport with those that may never have the opportunity to get close to a balloon otherwise. We visit schools and allow the children to come up ask questions, touch the balloon and at times do tethers for them. We also take our balloon to Paul Newman’s Victory Junction Camp in Randleman, NC and share our balloon with the handicap children that visit the camp over 6 weeks in the summer each year. Normally we carry 3 of our grandchildren with us when ballooning, the oldest wants to become a pilot and we’re starting to work on getting her certified. We’re glad to be able to participate in your balloon rally.

To book a balloon ride with Buddy contact him at wcater1@triad.rr.com or call (336) 317-3598.

Dale Pattyn

Dale started crewing for a local Balloon Pilot in 2005 upon moving to Albuquerque, NM while still Active Duty Air Force and fell in love with this different way to fly. He bought his first Balloon in 2009, received an LTA rating in 2010, and his Commercial LTA rating in 2014.  He has accumulated 250 hours in balloons and has been a regular instructor at Balloon Ground Schools and Safety Seminars in Albuquerque before relocating to Georgia in 2017 to be the Chief Pilot Instructor at the new Lockheed Martin Hercules Training Center located in Marietta, GA. He is a retired Air Force Command Pilot with over 5,000 flight hours having flown T-37, T-38 and various C-130 aircraft. Along with his Commercial LTA Balloon privileges, he holds an ATP, B-737, & L-382 type ratings.

David Litton

Living in Statesville NC, our family has always had a natural curiosity for hot air balloons. Seeing a hot air balloon in the Statesville skies was a huge thrill for my family! We have been crewing during the Carolina Balloon festival for seven years and I always had the desire to learn more. At the 2016 Carolina Balloon Festival,  I decided to make my dream of being a hot air balloon pilot a reality. I started taking lessons and became a private pilot in August 2017. My goal is to become a commercial pilot as soon as possible and continue sharing my love for ballooning with others. My favorite thing about ballooning is that it is something that my family does together.  My crew consists of my wife Candice and our 3 children Abigail (15), Jenna (12) and Owen(8). 

David Litton

Hector Corominas

First balloon flight was while stationed with the U.S. Army in Germany. While photographing the balloons, a German pilot asked if I wanted to go up with him. Moments into the flight I thought to myself, I want to become a balloonist. Several years later, the desire to fly was still strong. Realizing, “life is short,” I became a balloonist that has traveled the U.S. with my wife Teri, attending over 50 ballooning events from coast to coast and Mexico.

To book a balloon ride with John, contact him at captcoro@yahoo.com or call (817) 914-2043.

Bonnie Clevinger

Bonnie has been ballooning since 1994. This has allowed me to fly east coast and west coast.  Great group of people to know.

“I knew this is what I wanted to do the first time I saw a balloon flying in my hometown, a small town in Michigan in the early 80s,” she recalled. “I stopped dead in my tracks and I knew I had to do that.”

Within six months her first flight, she bought her own balloon. Now, more than three decades later, she has managed and operated a fleet of hot-air balloons for well know corporations across the country. There are only a handful of hot air balloon companies across the country with the same experience Treacy has amassed.

For Marsha, a magical attraction to balloons has been at the heart of a career in aerial advertising spanning 34 years. When she talks about the “child-like wonder” that hot-air balloons inspire in people of all ages, she’s discussing the personal as well as the universal experience. That experience with the “gentle giants,” as she calls them, makes hot-air balloons great canvasses for advertising.

Whether she’s flying above thousands of people gathered for a major sporting event or taking a family on a charter ride,she’s never lost sight of her good fortune of making a career out of doing something she loves.

To book a balloon ride with Marsha contact her at marsha@aerosportballoon.com or call (704) 880-0238.

Bill Scarberry, Jr.

‘Bluner Bill’, Bill Scarberry Jr. is from LeSage, WV and has been flying for 31 years, clocking over 1000 hours. He has several accreditations including Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Certified and Commercially Rated Hot Air Balloon Pilot. In April 2000, he was commercially licensed by the Directorate of Civil Aviation (DCA) in Kenya, Africa to fly passenger balloons up to 310,000 cubic feet and to train in the 400,000 cubic feet balloon (the world’s largest passenger carrying balloon at that time). Bill was a member of the Balloon Federation of America from 1988, was a member and Piedmont Director of the Carolinas Balloonist Association, and a member of the Iredell Aeronaut Society until it ceased to be. He is currently an AAAA Member. ‘Bluner Bill’ has done business since 1991 as “Sky High Balloon Promotions” from in and around the LeSage and Huntington, West Virginia area, then Abingdon, Virginia, serving the Tri-Cities Area of Tennessee and surrounding areas, then in Concord, North Carolina. Bill and his wife, Kathy now reside in Piney Flats, Tennessee. Now semi-retired as a full time balloon pilot, he flies only for fun, sport and his and Kathy’s favorite charities.

To book a balloon ride with Bill contact him at blunerbill@gmail.com or call (704) 564-2326.

Bill Balloon

Mike and Kristine Teis 

Mike has been involved in ballooning since he was 15 years old when he began volunteering to crew for Bill Smith and his Balloon “Prime Time” in Canton, OH and has been hooked ever since. Mike bought “The Endeavor” and started training for his pilot certificate in 2016. He became a private pilot in June 2018. For Mike, giving others the thrill of flying in a balloon is a great pleasure. Often, it is their first flight, and one they will always remember. Mike receives continual love and support from his wife, Kristine and daughters, Lesley, Sarah and Abby as he continues to follow his dream. This is his first time flying in the Muscadine Balloon Fiesta and is very excited to be a part of this worthy cause.

Ken Draughn 

Ken Draughn is born and raised in Burlington, NC. He is a commercial pilot and has been in flying for 29 years. 

John Paisley
During a camping trip in 1985, John, his wife, Joyce, and their 4 children attended a hot air balloon rally in Love Valley, North Carolina. That event was the beginning of a great family adventure. Flying throughout the country since the 1980’s, John has a commercial Lighter Than Air pilot’s certificate.

John enjoys flying in balloon competitions, tethering campers at Victory Junction, sharing the joy of ballooning with ride passengers and meeting new friends at festivals. He is looking forward to attending the Monroe Life Balloon Festival this year.

To book a balloon ride with John, contact him at jpaisley@johnpaisleylaw.com or call (336) 263-8325.

Derek Browning

I have been involved with ballooning for almost 40 years. I have been a pilot since 1995. Have participated in numerous ballooning events including the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Me and my wife are both retired from law enforcement and have 3 children.

To book a balloon ride with John, contact him at balloon9095@gmail.com or call (502) 639-1594.