The Patrick Grogan Story
For Patrick Grogan, it all started in Statesville at the National Balloon rally 30 years ago. “I was a chase crew volunteer for a Plano, TX balloon. It was sponsored by the Iredell County Fireman’s Association, and I remember its banner read Learn Not to Burn.” Later, when Patrick answered a newspaper ad for crew needed by Fantasy Flights, he signed up. “I crewed for them a couple years, and one day a balloon I didn’t recognize flew over our house. I grab my keys, chased him down, and help him pack up.” Ed Ristaino was that pilot, and he was impressed that Patrick was experienced in balloon crewing. Ed was especially eager to get to know Patrick better when he said he’d be glad to help out any time.
Ed’s balloon ride business, Lake Norman Balloon Company, got off the ground, so to speak. His chase crew consisted of his wife, Ruthie, Patrick, and Patrick’s wife, Felicia. “It was quite a surprise when Ed asked Felicia or me to learn how to fly balloons for him,” Patrick told me. “Felicia really wasn’t interested, so I started training that fall.” And the rest is history.
Within six months, Patrick earned his commercial certificate. He and Ed worked together for 20 years, going to a rally in Canada and all over the US. “Having Ed as my instructor and business partner was the best thing I could have dreamed up. He opened up his house to my family and truly loved ballooning. That love was infectious.”
Roads That Lead to Him
Patrick and Felicia, his crew chief, enjoy flying passengers the most. While he does so-so in competitions, he enjoys working the winds to hit the targets. “But most of the time, I just let my passengers throw the baggies at the target,” Patrick explained. “They get such a kick out of it. They’re surprised you can launch several miles away and still, with just a little bit of skill, get the balloon to the target. And, I love when I land so softly I have to tell my passengers we’re back on the ground. That’s a win for me—I know I’ve had a great flight and done a good job.”
Felicia’s the reason Patrick flies balloons. “I wouldn’t do any of this if it wasn’t for her!” he said. Felicia told me she loves chasing balloons, “because it’s always a challenge finding roads that lead me to him, no matter where he’s gone…we’re a great team.”
The Grogan’s most recent acquisition is a new FireFly balloon—a neon-bright, left-handed rainbow swirl named Neon Dreamz. “I love this balloon because I got to sew most of it together. This season’s balloon is Pat-O-Lantern, a crowd-pleasing pumpkin.” My crew wanted to name it Jack-O-Lantern, but I refuse to fly a balloon named Jack.”
Patrick’s flown at Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, but he says his most special place is Centennial, CO. “Ed let me pick events, so, because I have some family there, I chose Centennial,” he said. “My parents were there, too. We flew all my family, just fun flying with the people I love.”
Fly High Above The Tree Tops
Currently, Patrick gives rides though his company Tree Top Flyer in the Statesville to Mooresville areas. He works for FireFly Balloons as an aircraft repairman, doing annual inspections, repairs, and helping build new balloons.