Most people recognize the Re/Max International real estate company’s logo, with the corporate-branded hot air balloon flying high above the competition.
What most people don’t know, however, is that the original Re/Max balloon was manufactured 35 years ago in Statesville.
“It was actually built here in Statesville by Tracy Barnes at the Balloon Works (now named FireFly Balloons), and they flew it for the first time, 35 years ago this very week, at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta,” Pilot Pete Colwell said.
“They saw the attention balloons got, and now we have over 120 balloons in our fleet, and of course, it’s one of the most recognized company symbols around the world. Re/Max is all about being above the crowd, so a balloon was just a natural fit.”
The Re/Max Hot Air Balloon returned to Statesville on Friday to raise money for charity, giving tethered rides at the 40th annual Carolina BalloonFest.
Over the years, Colwell said, Re/Max has found that hot air balloons make excellent marketing tools because of how novel and noticeable they are.
“You may drive by a billboard and not think two cents about it, but you see a balloon going across I-40 out here and you’ll probably remember it and tell someone about it when you get home,” he said.
The tethered rides cost $5 for kids and $10 for adults, and the proceeds go to the charities supported by BalloonFest. Last year, Colwell said his operation raised more than $2,000.
In addition to its fundraising function, Colwell said the tethered rides allow him to share the experience of hot air ballooning with far more people than he could offering traditional flights.
Lori Nielsen of Mooresville took her four kids for a ride on the Re/Max balloon and called the experience incredible.
“It was scarier for me than for them, I think. They were waving, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh!' I did it for them because I don’t like heights, so it was plenty high enough being tethered to the ground,” she said.
“This was our first time coming out to BalloonFest. We heard about it from some friends who come every year, so we thought we would finally take the opportunity to come out and join them, and it has been a blast.”