While he was palpably disappointed that Friday’s early morning hot air balloon flight was cancelled due to unfavourable flying conditions, pilot Evan Erickson knows he will still have plenty of opportunities to get some air.
The North Okanagan Balloon Fiesta is underway this weekend and Evan is one of about a dozen pilots descending on the city for the annual event. The event is hosted by the North Okanagan Hot Air Balloon Society.
Noting the Fiesta is arguably one of the Vernon Winter Carnival’s most popular events, Evan said for him, it’s been a life-long family affair.
“I’ve been chasing hot air balloons since I was a little kid,” he recalled. “I can remember my dad driving me around to see them fly.”
Now his father, Trent, is occasionally part of his crew, along with his brother, Lukas.
since he bought his own hot air balloon in 2015, the Armstrong-based youth minister is able to fly almost any time he wants to — weather permitting, something his father, Trent, who joins Evan this weekend as a crew member, says he’s “extremely” proud of.
“It’s his passion and we’re really proud of him,” Trent says.
“It makes me really happy to see him do something that he loves. Evan has been chasing hot air balloons since he was a little kid. He was always a bit scared of the burner when he was little, but he was fascinated with them.”
“Twenty-six years,” Evan added. “I’ve been chasing them for my whole life. I can remember my dad taking me out and watching them in the sky…I’ve just always loved it.”
In 2015, he decided to take his passion to the next level — he got his pilots’ license and purchased a hot air balloon of his own. Evan said he made the leap three years ago while attending the Fiesta.
“I started talking to people and I met this pilot, Dale (Lang), and he said he’d help me train and get my license. He even let my wife and I stay with him in Alberta while I did my training.”
At 26-years-old, Evan is currently one of the youngest hot air balloon pilots in Canada. He’s participated in national competitions and air shows across North America. Though he still calls it “just a hobby,” he says one day, he would like it to be more. For now, Evan says all he wants is to be able to share his passion with the next generation — his young son, Micah.
“My wife and I have different ideas about when he’ll be old enough to go up with me, but I know whenever that is, I’m looking forward to it.”