A Birthday balloon ride

Lisa Mayfield and her grandpa have been planning a hot air balloon ride as far back as the newly 18-year-old from Frazee can recall. "I always thought it was the coolest thing," she said of the stories her grandpa told her of his voyage into the ...

Lisa Mayfield
Lisa Mayfield, right, and grandfather Cal, left, lift off in a hot air balloon east of Frazee on her 18th birthday last week. The two had been talking about taking the ride since she was young.

Lisa Mayfield and her grandpa have been planning a hot air balloon ride as far back as the newly 18-year-old from Frazee can recall.

"I always thought it was the coolest thing," she said of the stories her grandpa told her of his voyage into the sky years ago. "I told him we were going to go up for my eighteenth birthday.

"I didn't think he'd go again, but I told him he had to," she added with a laugh.

A month before her June 14th birthday, Mayfield began her efforts to turn their talk into an actuality.

"I was trying to make it happen," she said. "I tried everything."


After a month of Internet investigating and a disappointing call to the Detroit Lakes Chamber of Commerce, Mayfield gave up her search, resigned to enjoying her much-anticipated birthday without the balloon ride she'd always imagined it would include.

On Wednesday the 14th, Mayfield celebrated at home with a family supper and a none-too-impressive display of presents.

"I got a garbage can with balloons coming off of it," she said. "My mom told me that they hadn't been able to find (a hot air balloon) so they made one themselves."

The garbage can was filled with small gifts - a candle, a jar of pickles - that came as a disappointment for a birthday Mayfield had pictured being much bigger.

Then her mom pointed out a balloon with another balloon inside it, urging her daughter to pop it.

"I popped the balloon and a business card fell out," Mayfield said.

As she soon learned, her parents had been doing their own research, beating her to the Chamber and arranging for DL's Tom Tollefson to give their daughter the balloon ride she'd always anticipated.

When she called Tollefson the next day, he told her that balloons are extremely weather-dependent, and that Monday looked like a good day to go up.


"I was kind of bummed because my party was on Saturday and I wanted to go up before then," Mayfield said.

Still thrilled for her upcoming flight into the clouds, she bought herself a new digital camera for the big day, hoping it would come soon.

"While I was shopping, (Tollefson) called me and said 'do you want to go tomorrow?'"

Mayfield gave an eager affirmative and made takeoff plans with her grandpa, just like they'd been intending to do for years.

"We took off from my house, which was cool because a lot of my family came and helped set up," Mayfield said.

While in the air, Mayfield and her grandpa told their story to Tollefson while traveling over the countryside at heights nearing 1,000 feet.

"I was just awestruck. It was so beautiful up there," Mayfield said, adding that she broke in her camera by constantly snapping pictures. "On average people are up for an hour. I'd say we were up for close to two."

After landing in a field in Evergreen, her family chasing close behind, the group opened a bottle of champagne in post-flight tradition.


Mayfield explained that when ballooning first began, the farmers whose fields were landed in thought their riders must be devils and the flying devices witchcraft, so passengers opened a bottle of champagne upon landing.

"They thought the devil couldn't possibly have French champagne," she said.

Did Mayfield try some?

"A little bit. It wasn't very good."

She also underwent a "christening," adding her to the ranks of experienced balloonists that her grandpa had similarly been inducted into following his first ride.

Mayfield knelt facing the sun while Tollefson put glass on her shoulders and the top of her head, reciting an Irish toast before his wife poured water down Mayfield's back.

After regaining her land legs, Mayfield had her Saturday birthday party, a dessert-centered sort with "no food - just sweets," and answered questions about her time in the sky.

"We put the pictures on the TV and I think I gave the commentary like twice," she said with a laugh. "The fact that it actually happened was overwhelming."


Mayfield said she wants to go up again, adding that her two little brothers, mom and dad - who's afraid of heights - all want to take a hot air balloon ride after watching hers.

"I just want to give a huge thank you to my mom and dad and my grandpa and all my family that came out to help," Mayfield said. "It was amazing - the best birthday by far."

Rising towards the dawn
Rising towards the dawn, the balloon heads for Evergreen. (Brian Basham/Record)

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