Brian Matuszak column: Up, up, and away with Brian’s beautiful balloon columnSo this weekend you’ll find hot air swirling all around Bayfront Park, but don’t worry. It’s not because Secret Service Entertainment is running things down there again. It’s a Balloon Festival!
So this weekend you’ll find hot air swirling all around Bayfront Park, but don’t worry. It’s not because Secret Service Entertainment is running things down there again. It’s a Balloon Festival!
Someone thought it might be a swell idea to return to the thrilling days of yesteryear and bring back balloons. Apparently, they were all the rage in Duluth at the turn of the century.
According to the Duluth News Tribune, large groups of citizens would gather at the old pavilion at the top of the hill and gaze, wide-eyed, as the balloons went up, up, up and then parachute-strapped balloonists floated back down, down, down. (I bet that’s where city engineers got the idea for the operational design of the Aerial Lift Bridge!)
While I’m not old enough to have shared this planet with those early Duluthians who were eager to part with their money in order to witness death-defying acts like balloon-parachuting, I have seen my share of exciting things down in that part of town over the 50 years of my existence. And let me tell you, some of those events were just as rousing, action-packed, electrifying, invigorating, and several other words suggested by my online thesaurus.
For example, did you know you used to be able to ride on the aforementioned Lift Bridge? I have distinct memories of my Aunt Linda taking us down to summer carnivals in the Arena parking lot and then wandering down to Canal Park to feed the seagulls. One year, as my brother, sister, and I were being particularly annoying after an afternoon binge of cotton candy, deep-fried mini-donuts, and Styrofoam vats of Pepsi, Linda noticed a sign on the Lift Bridge touting rides for only 25 cents. She seized on this golden opportunity.
“Wouldn’t it be neat to have all three of you kids ride up there to the top?” she squeaked in a desperate voice. “I think it’d be swell!! Don’t you? Huh?! Don’t you?! Wouldn’t it?! Don’t you?!”
I washed down my Pixie Stix with some root beer and pointed a sticky finger at my siblings Bruce and Brenda. “But Aunty, there’s three of us, and we have only 50 cents left.”
“Yeah,” my brother piped up. “We’d need...,” his face squished into the shape of a clenched fist as his sugar-buzzed brain tried to do the math,“ ... a lot more quarters.”
Brenda smacked him in the back of the head. (She was always the slap-happy child.) “Duh! We woulda had enough if you hadn’t pitched dimes tryin’ to win that stupid ashtray!” She then whirled towards me. I stumbled to hide behind the curtain of seagulls that had exploded into the sky. “Or you and your fudge!”
Rather than face a Sophie’s Choice-type of situation, Linda opted instead for the cheaper “pushy tourists/kids near the water’s edge” sort of deal, but it never worked out.
In all honesty, I fondly remember those summer times with our aunt. I’m not sure if she’s come to grips with them yet, but her therapist does say she’s making tremendous progress.
Brian Matuszak is the founder of Rubber Chicken Theater, and invites you to follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/rchickentheater or like him on Facebook at Rubber Chicken Theater. He is celebrating 26 years of wedded bliss this week and shakes his head every day at his incredible good fortune for tricking someone into liking him.